Council debates how to cut cost for new fire station downtown
Construction costs have gone up nationwide, and the latest estimates for Steamboat Springs’ new downtown fire station and city hall, tentatively planned for construction in spring 2023, came with some sticker shock.
During the Steamboat Springs City Council meeting Tuesday, Sept. 19, council members were divided about how to manage rising costs for the new downtown fire station.
The latest schematic design estimates the downtown fire station to cost about $22 million — $5.87 million more than it was originally budgeted.
Deputy City Manager Tom Leeson said that with the help of Wember Inc., the city’s representative on the project, they performed value engineering — a process of identifying ways to reduce cost while minimizing any loss of functionality.
Lesson and the Wember were able to find about $4.8 million in savings in the design for the downtown fire station, which would put the price tag at $17.3 million — or about 6% over budget.
About $500,000 of those savings would come from removing one of the station’s four apparatus bays where the fire engines park. However, the removal of the fourth bay was the subject of debate between City Council members.
City staff recommended removing the fourth bay, saying three would likely be enough, as long as plans move forward for a rebuilt Mountain Fire Station and a new fire station on the west end of town with the Yampa Valley Housing Authority’s Brown Ranch project.
Some council members weren’t comfortable losing the functionality of the fourth apparatus bay, though.
As an alternative, some council members entertained the idea of removing some planned civic space from the campus design instead, which could free up more than $400,000.
“If it turns out that it takes 10 years before we’re ready to do the work on the Mountain Station, are we still good with three bays at the new station?” council member Joella West asked.
Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue Chief Chuck Cerasoli responded by saying three apparatus bays would be enough for current operations. Ideally, Steamboat should have multiple smaller fire stations spread across the city to optimize response times anyway, he explained.
But removing the fourth bay would also limit pull-through capabilities for the fire engines because multiple trucks would sometimes need to be parked in the same bay, Cerasoli said. He added that having only three bays would also limit the department’s ability to add new engines.
“If we had all sorts of money and there were no other obstacles in place and we were going to get the fire station we wanted no matter what, then yeah, we’d probably add a fourth bay,” Cerasoli said. “That’s not the situation we’re facing.”
Cerasoli said he believes in the project and the civic space, and would support whichever direction council decides to take. The civic space has been described as a “ribbon of space” and would function as an open walkway and gathering spot for pedestrians.
“I love the civic space,” council member Dakotah McGinlay said. “But I also agree that the whole point of this project was a new fire station and city hall, and the civic space was kind of a nice addition.”
Council member Michael Buccino was curious how much it might actually save to abandon the civic space, as compared to building regular streets and sidewalks in its place.
Although no official decision was made, council members Robin Crossan, Gail Garey and Buccino supported staff’s recommendation of removing the fourth bay and keeping the civic space, while Heather Sloop, Ed Briones, West and McGinlay said they were open to keeping the fourth bay, even if it meant abandoning the civic space.
To reach Spencer Powell, call 970-871-4229 or email him at spowell@SteamboatPilot.com
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