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JC panel OKs low bid for fire station

COREY SHOUN • May 3, 2007 at 11:48 AM

JOHNSON CITY - During the Johnson City Commission's final meeting in its current incarnation, the panel approved a bid that paves the way for a new fire station.

The low bid for construction of Fire Station 9, to be located on a portion of Winged Deer Park along the Bristol Highway, came in at more than $1.2 million.

Execution of the bid and the beginning of construction is expected to take about one month, and the project would then be scheduled for completion in about one year.

In February 2006, the commission approved borrowing $1 million for the project. Rising construction costs over the past year served to bring the project about 40 percent over budget. Through some cuts in project amenities and reworking of others, the lowest bid was dropped by more than $100,000.

More than $200,000 in additional funds will be needed as part of the 2008 fiscal year budget.

"We had some very frank discussions (with Shaw and Shanks Architects) about the fact that this is just way over budget," City Manager Pete Peterson said. "I feel real comfortable that we've reduced the bid price on this about all that we can get."

Mayor Steve Darden likened the project overruns to those experienced when the commission funded $2 million more than budgeted for a new Seniors Center facility.

"We've experienced the sting of projections not being what the ultimate bid prices are," Darden said. "It's kind of the era we're in."

The station will have 6,000 square feet and will feature three vehicle bays and living space of about 1,800 square feet.

"That seems sort of luxurious to me," Commissioner Pete Paduch said.

Approval of the bid, presented by Goins Rash Cain Inc., was given on a 3-0 vote. Both Paduch and Commissioner Ricky Mohon, taking part in their last meeting after 12 years and eight years, respectively, on the commission passed on the vote.

"It shouldn't take a year to design a fire station and put it out for bid," Paduch said. "Why were we never given the opportunity to look at the plans?"

An emergency electrical generator and an alternate vehicle exhaust system were among the amenities removed from the plans to bring the price down.

Paduch suggested that material other than the masonry block and brick should be used to bring costs down.

Architect Tom Shanks said that while the plans could be redrawn to reduce costs, it would be wise to make the facility aesthetically pleasing because it will sit at one of the "gateways" to the city. In addition, Shanks took exception to Paduch's assessment that the fire station is a simple rectangular structure.

"It's a very intensive building. It's not just four walls and a roof," Shanks said. "There are a lot of bells and whistles because of everything they do."

Peterson said he and Chief Paul Greene agreed that three vehicle bays are needed because Washington County/Johnson City Emergency Medical Services would be allowed access to the facility.

Greene said 13 new firefighter positions are tentatively budgeted for the coming year in order to staff the new station with three firefighters per shift. Those firefighters will be hired in July, will begin rookie school in August, and will complete that school in December.

In other business, the commission deferred action on rezoning ordinances involving the former Tennessee Valley Authority property without discussion. Property owner Stewart Taylor requested the deferral to continue work on proposed site plans.

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