Between the Lines

Between the Lines By David Lias We agree with all concerned that it is about time that the Vermillion Fire Department is housed in better quarters.

The present structure that shelters the community's fire trucks and ambulances is probably near the end of its usefulness. We haven't toured the building, but we have heard it is aging and crowded.

So, to reiterate: We don't question whether it is time for the city to put up a new fire station. It seems obvious that a new structure is needed.

We can't help but wonder, however, whether the route being taken by city leaders to reach this goal is the proper one.

The Vermillion City Council hired an architect months ago to design the new fire hall. He designed a structure following the specifications and input of the city council and fire department.

There's just one problem. The design's final estimated price tag was expected, as far back as January, to exceed the $1 million of second penny sales tax funds set aside for the project.

Earlier this month, bids for the project were received and opened. The architect's estimate concerning the building's cost appear to be accurate.

The lowest base bid for the fire hall came in at $1,204,000. Alternates � items that can be trimmed or changed from the building's design � can be deducted from that base bid to lower the final price tag amount to $1,118,400.

This means that the city council likely will have the means to fund this project, even though it exceeds the $1 million budget and even though the city has twice tried and failed to be awarded a $200,000 Community Development Block Grant to help pay for the building.

City Manager Jeff Pederson has noted that there is approximately $280,000 in unprogrammed second penny sales tax funds available to replace the grant money that wasn't received.

We note that part of the cost of the building, as designed, is beyond the city's control. The soil conditions of the proposed site of the new structure on Dakota Street mean additional foundation costs.

We can't help but be plagued by some nagging doubts about items within the city's control, namely the process the city has followed. We have nearly reached the point of no return as far as the awarding of bids is concerned.

We would feel more comfortable right now if the city council, when presented original cost estimates of about $1.2 million, would have explored other options.

The city is proposing to put up a masonry, L-shaped building. 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.

The building's interior design includes rest rooms, 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 so that they may stay overnight at the station during times of bad weather.

The architect for the project was asked last November to explore the costs of erecting a steel rather than masonry building to house Vermillion's emergency equipment and vehicles.

He informed the council, by letter, that he didn't believe a metal building would be feasible.

That letter apparently was enough to stop any further inquiry by the city into the savings that could be experienced by erecting a steel rather than masonry structure. To our knowledge, no inquiries have been made to companies that have expertise in building with steel.

A design featuring a steel building may work just fine for Vermillion's needs. The city should have more strongly pursued information about this option. We also can't help but conclude that such features as a training room, fitness room, meeting room, and bedrooms are extraneous and likely could be removed from the building's design and trim its cost.

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