Fund shortage dampens fire station plans

Fund shortage dampens fire station plans Bob Lee, an architect with RML Architects of Sioux City, IA, presented a drawing that shows how Vermillion's new fire hall would appear if it were built according to plans that have been developed by his architectural firm. Whether such a building will become reality will depend on Vermillion's ability to fund the project. City officials will lobby in Pierre for a $200,000 grant. by David Lias The Vermillion Volunteer Fire and Rescue Squad is used to responding quickly.

It is learning that the city�s attempts to construct a new fire hall may require a degree of patience from everyone involved, however, ranging from firemen and aldermen to architects.

Monday the Vermillion City Council agreed to take no further action on the development of plans for the fire hall. Aldermen agreed with a suggestion by Bob Lee, an architect with RML Architects of Sioux City, IA, to develop a wait and see attitude instead.

No other choice

The city has no other choice. Soil problems have been discovered at the fire station�s proposed site on Dakota Street. The soil will require additional construction methods on the building�s foundation that will add slightly to its cost.

In addition, the Governor�s Office of Economic Development turned down Vermillion�s attempt to secure $200,000 in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds.

In a letter dated Dec. 22, Norman Lingle, coordinator of CDBG Community Projects, informed Mayor William Radigan that Vermillion�s request for economic assistance was not approved.

�Funding for this type of project is limited and with the great demand for CDBG funding, not all projects can receive funding,� he stated in the letter.

Without the CDBG funds and with the possibility of additional construction costs, the city may not be able to gather the revenue to construct the building.

�The original directive that we were given when we interviewed with the fire department was that there was $1,150,000 available for the building,� Lee said.

Last November, Lee told the city council tha t he believed the new fire hall would carry a price tag of about $1,165,000.

�I�m thinking that the increment of cost that we�re looking at for that (extra) foundation work is going to be around $25,000,� Lee said. �That takes us up to $1,190,000, and that is approximately $40,000 above what I was originally given as a budget.�

Funding shortfall

That�s why Vermillion�s original budgeted amount of $1 million for the fire hall isn�t sufficient, he said.

�If I have to cut that back to $1 million, if I have to take $190,000 out of it, we probably are going to take a wing off (the building�s design),� Lee said. �I don�t see that there is any way to do that with moderate alternations. If that is going to be the directive, then I need to know that very soon.�

If the funding shortfall isn�t as severe, Lee added, �we may be able to get that kind of increment out of there without destroying the structure.�

Lee said the absence of the CDBG funding could mean going back to the drawing board and trimming back the building.

�Under that situation, we would have to do some major changes to it,� he said. �I wouldn�t want to send it out to bid in this condition expecting to be able to take $200,000 out of it. That wouldn�t be realistic.�

Finance Office Mike Carlson said that if everything had gone as expected, there would be $1 million budgeted for the project by the city, plus the $200,000 grant.

�Then you would back the engineering costs out, which were $50,000 to $70,000, leaving us at $1,150,000 available for the building,� Carlson said.

City will try again

City Manager Jeff Pederson said Vermillion is making a second attempt at securing $200,000 in CDBG funding.

�I don�t think it�s going to be a great amount of time between now and when we find out if we�re successful in our second go around,� he said.

Pederson and Lee both indicated that further work on the project could wait three or four weeks until Vermillion knows if it has been awarded the grant.

The city, Pederson said, may be able to make a more comprehensive application by informing the state of the new challenges that have been discovered in trying to turn the proposal into reality.

�In the second go-round, we must find a way to explain fully the merits of the project as well as what the abilities of the city are to fund the project,� he said. �Any of you who have lived in town for a while know that Vermillion is a first class city, but it does not have a first class revenue, and I think Pierre could be educated a little bit on that fact.

�We may be a first class city but that doesn�t mean you have to be refused a block grant fund application to help our infrastructure needs,� Pederson added.

L-shaped building

Lee�s architectural firm has already completed some preliminary design work on the proposed L-shaped structure.

Fire trucks would be housed in five bays toward the building�s south side. Four ambulance bays are planned to be constructed toward the north side. The ambulance service will use three of the bays, and the grass fire truck will be housed in the fourth bay.

All of the bays would open to the east. The architect firm�s plans call for constructing a masonry building, with concrete block as the primary building material for the exterior walls.

The building�s interior design includes restrooms, showers, offices and storage space, a meeting room, a training room, a fitness room, a communication room, work areas and a laundry.

Two bedrooms are also included in the building�s design that could be used by ambulance personnel who may need to stay overnight in case of bad weather.

Steel not an option

Lee was asked by the council in November to explore the costs of erecting a steel rather than masonry building to house Vermillion�s emergency equipment and vehicles.

He recently informed the council, by letter, that he didn�t believe a metal building would be feasible.

�I can�t believe that letter,� Alderman Joe Grause said, �because I�ve been to other fire stations, and they haven�t cost anything like this. I�ve thought as voters throughout the city, we all should have the right to get what we asked for.�

�If you would like to have it designed as a metal building, we can do that, but you can�t take this building,� Lee said, referring to the masonry structure that�s been designed, �in its non-symmetrical form, and just say it�s going to be a metal building.

�You depart so much from the standard grid that the metal buildings require for economy that you�re not going to get the benefit from the pre-engineering of the metal building,� he added.

Lee said placing the components that have been designed inside the masonry building in a metal building also would require a completely different floor plan. He also had informed the council of that in his letter.

�If you want to design as metal building, it needs to be designed in as simple a rectangle as we can make it without the different wings, and that would require us to go back and start from scratch,� Lee said. �I tried to explain that in my letter, that we had already gone beyond that point.�

�If that was a metal building sitting there, what are we going to lose?� Grause asked.

�You would have to adapt it to a non-standard structural grid,� Lee said. �There are differences in the way the perimeters of building are set up, and even the spacing of the doors and bays would be different.�

�I go to other towns and I look at awful nice fire stations,� Grause said. �They�re metal with brick fronting, and they cost one-third of this, so you�re having a terrible time selling me on this.�

Ways to save

�The best way to save money in a project like this, in my opinion, is to leave out those things that can be left out without damaging the quality of the structure,� Lee said.

He also suggested not paving the parking lot until later, or finding other places in the structure to omit that don�t compromise its quality.

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