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Redesign needed on proposed new fire station

Published August 28. 2012 05:00PM

The construction of a new fire station in Lehighton is going to be delayed a little, thanks to cost consciousness of the fire department.

Steve Ebbert, chairman of the building committee of the Lehighton Fire Department, said the bids came in "quite a bit over budget."

As a result, he said the committee recommended and the council unanimously took the recommendation that the bids be rejected and some redesigning occur.

"I'm not here asking you for more money, I'm here to let you know the committee immediately went to work on redesigning it and trying to find ways to cut costs," Ebbert explained to the council.

He outlined several changes which will be made in the plans in an effort to cut those costs.

There were 14 bid categories including concrete, general trades, roofing, elevator, heating and ventilation, plumbing, and electrical. Every category had multiple firms offering quoted prices. Despite this, the price for the work was still higher than the council and fire department anticipated.

The new station will have five new bays facing Third Street. It will be located between the Lehigh Fire Company No. 1 building and the Engine Company No. 2 building. Ebbert pointed out that even with the redesign, the potential exists for seven pieces of apparatus to exit the fire station on Third Street instead of in the rear alley or Cedar Street.

Among the things the fire department is considering is vacating the first floor of the Fire Company No. 1 building, which will result in an initial project savings of $50,000. Under this concept, Station 2 and the rear of Station 1 will become the main response areas for the fire department, Ebbert said.

"It's definitely going to be an inconvenience for the firefighters, but we're asking for a new building. That's something we can work around with and save $50,000 from the original budget," he said. "We're still going to have a very efficient, very modern fire house."

One of the proposals in the present design which increased construction costs, Ebbert said, is having the storm water pipe from the rear of Station 2 installed beneath the bays. This concept will be changed, he said.

The square footage proposed on the current plans increased the costs, he said, so office space will be reduced and a fitness room will be eliminated. Fitness equipment will be placed in other areas of the fire station.

The new building will no longer be connected to Station 2 because doing so would force the fire department to add sprinklers in Station 2 and this drove up the cost.

"We can operate Station 2 efficiently without updating it," he said.

Ebbert said the fire department has been working closely with the Alvin Butz firm on design and "They've been able to put a draft together of a firehouse that's going to meet our budget."

Once the plans are finalized, rebidding will occur.

"We want to make sure it's going to be something that's going to be useful for many years for the borough, and at the same time be fiscally responsible and not be a burden on taxpayers," Ebbert commented. "So what we did is we looked at a redesign. It's going to give us room for equipment. It's going to give us all the space we can use. And in the redesign, we were able to redesign in a way that if money ever becomes available, the first floor will be large enough and strong enough that we can add an addition onto the second floor."

"Obviously we don't want to come back to the taxpayers and ask for more money," he stressed.

Meanwhile, Ebbert said the fire department is hoping to obtain bids for the concrete foundation and have this installed before winter weather arrives.

The budget for the new fire station had been placed at $3.75 million.

Of this figure, $1.75 million was in the form of a grant from the state's Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP). To match the grant, the borough has allotted tax revenues to the project.

When the tax allocation was approved last December, borough manager Nicole Beckett stated, "This is not a forever tax. The loan should be paid off for the match in 12 years if we only take the $1.75 million. While tax increases are never an easy decision, please keep in mind this increase is going to match $1.75 million in (state) funding. The borough of Lehighton will not be funding the full construction project."

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