MIDDLETOWN — The cost of building and furnishing four fire stations in Middletown is burning out of control.
Originally thought to cost $16.9 million, the cost to construct fire stations has increased to $19.8 million in January and now the total cost, including “soft costs,” is estimated at $26.6 million, according to firms that made presentations Tuesday night during the City Council meeting.
The increases are being blamed due to inflation and cost of building materials, according to projections from App Architecture, the Englewood firm hired to perform the designs.
In May 2022, voters overwhelmingly approved a 1-mill property tax levy to fund the building of the fire stations. At the time, the levy was expected to generate enough revenue to replace the city’s aging fire stations and headquarters.
The city was always going to pay for furnishing the fire stations.
In the last 12 to 18 months, the cost of goods has continued to rise and the inflation is impacting the cost of the fire stations that are expected to last 50 to 60 years.
City Council agreed to spend about $5 million out of its capital reserve budget at its January work session, but it’s unclear how the city will fund the additional $5 million to construct and equip the four stations.
These estimates include construction costs ($23.4 million), construction contingencies ($617,000) and “soft costs” ($2.6 million), according to the presenters.
City Manager Paul Lolli said once the city has received “more concrete, exact numbers” on total construction costs, City Council will hold a work session to discuss possible solutions.
“We will make this work,” said Lolli, the city’s former fire chief.
He promised residents the city would make “good, informed decisions.”
City leaders, including Fire Chief Tom Snively, said they’re considering ways to offset the funding gap. Snively said the department has applied for a Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant, but those funds are only eligible for personnel.
The Middletown Division of Fire, which is responding to more calls for service with fewer firefighters, hopes to receive a to fund the hiring of eight firefighters and one lieutenant.
Council member Rodney Muterspaw, the city’s former police chief, said he wanted to assure residents who supported the fire levy that “extravagant” fire stations aren’t being built.
Mayor Nicole Condrey said it makes her “sick to my stomach” when she thinks about the rising costs of everything, not just the fire stations, at a time when employees are receiving small percentage raises.
Tim Bement from App Architecture said his firm also is working on building four stations in Springfield. Like Middletown, that city is dealing with rising construction costs, he said.
Handling construction costs is “a real challenge,” he said.
In January, City Council approved an agreement with Pepper Construction Co. of Ohio to serve as construction manager at-risk. The company will be paid no more than $2,984,000 out of the fire levy fund, according to the staff report.
ESTIMATED COSTS OF MIDDLETOWN’S FOUR FIRE STATIONS
- New fire headquarters location replacing the 1.38-acre site on Roosevelt Boulevard: A 3.6-acre site at Yankee Road and Cherry Street owned by the city as acquired from the Middletown City Schools and former site of Garfield school. Size: 24,300 square feet. Total cost: $10.5 million.
- Station No. 81 location replacing 0.28-acre site on Clinton Street: A 2.85-acre site at Henry Avenue and Charles Street owned by the city as acquired from the Middletown City Schools and former site of the Jefferson school. Size: 10,200 square feet. Cost: $5 million..
- Station No. 85 location replacing 0.86-acre site at Central Avenue and Breiel Boulevard: A 2-acre parcel at Sophie Avenue and Stolz Drive encompassing the undeveloped, southern portion of Dowling Park owned by the city. Size: 10,200 square feet. Cost: $5 million.
- No. 82 location replacing 0.88-acre site on Dixie Highway: A 2.7-acre site at Ohio 122 and Atrium Boulevard acquired from Premier Health/Atrium Medical Center. Size: 11,800 square feet. Cost: $5.9 million.
SOURCE: City of Middletown
UPDATED COST OF BUILDING THE FOUR FIRE STATIONS
Construction: $23.4 million
Soft cost: $2.6 million
Total: $26.6 million
SOURCE: City of Middletown
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