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Mayor optimistic about construction of fire station

The false starts and trips back to the drawing board may have actually helped the city fund the construction of a new fire station, Mayor Bob Cleary said Wednesday as he presented the City Council's Finance Committee with new bids and a timeline for the revived $1.8 million project.

"I am excited," Cleary said. "This is the closest we have ever been, but it is not the time for celebration until the final documents are approved."

The submitted bids will be presented to council and should be accepted by Nov. 26 if the legislation to authorize the bids is approved by council. The financial budget must also be revised to allow for a 6 percent contingency fund instead of the original 4 percent.

In December, the current station will be vacated and a temporary facility will be set up on the Second Street side of the municipal garage while the one-story, four-garage fire station is built on the existing site. It will also include a training tower, Cleary said.

An official groundbreaking is tentatively scheduled for Dec. 11 and construction should begin less than a week later. The entire 10,600 square-foot station should be completed within 12 months, Cleary said.

Plans to replace the old station built in 1912 with a new building began in September of 1998. A fire fee -- based on water consumption --was established to fund a new station and pay for equipment and personnel.

Originally, city planners looked at several options and had a complete set of plans drawn up by Cole & Russell Architects, Inc., of Cincinnati. It was hoped that a 12,000 square foot building could be built on the same site for less than $1 million. The original design cost was $1.7 million and was re-worked to $1.3 million.

Right before the construction was to go to bid in 1999, plans were put on hold because of the slumping economy and the closing of companies such as Cabletron and Allied Chemical, Cleary said.

City officials believed the fire fee would be devastated, but it really was not impacted as hard as they thought, Cleary said.

"The bittersweet part is that because we have waited we have been able to get the Revolving Loan Funds, interest is lower than ever in history, and the fire fee has accumulated," he said. "We could not have done it two years ago because the money just wasn't there."

Cleary said the project is a direct result of the survey cards citizens filled out and probably could not have been financed otherwise.

"With the citizens' help, we have opened up a whole new door for projects to enhance the entire community," he said. "This is just the first one."

In addition to the RLF monies, the majority of the project will be funded by a $1.3 million bond that will be repaid with money from the fire fee. City Finance Director Cindy Anderson has designed a 30-year economic plan that outlines the fire department’s expected budget.

Because the fund may not be sufficient to finance the entire life of the project, the fire fee may be increased in 2010 and possibly 2020, Anderson said.

Since the lack of manpower has always been an issue, the proposed plan will allow for two additional firefighters to be hired in January, she said.