Fire Hall #1 Replacement Facility: Draft Plan Comes with $5 Million Price Tag

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Firehall best view (800x292)At the July 4th Council meeting, Fire Chief Bill Balfour introduced Frank Alaimo, principal of Alaimo Architecture Inc. to introduce the design and costing of a plan for a replacement facility for the aging and inadequate building located on King Street East currently serving the Fire Department.

The design was based on integrating a new facility with the current township building located at 988 County Rd. 10, which was viewed as strategically the best location for a number of reasons. First, this location was deemed by the design committee to be the best with respect to the coverage of the community for the deployment of fire apparatus. This relocation also affects the fewest residents by maintaining their optimum insurance industry ratings which require residents to be located within eight kilometers of a fire hall. The location is also fully serviced, and properly zoned under the Official Plan.

The proposed fire hall consists of 13,748 square feet on two floors. It requires the demolition of the existing one storey ‘gym’ area of the main Township offices and would attach through the former school gymnasium on the southeast corner, which is an underutilized part of the building. This section of the building would be demolished to make room for an extensive building which would include a 3 bay, double length fire hall area which could accommodate 6 firetrucks, a multipurpose room, administrative offices, separate archive and gear storage, change rooms, washrooms and a mechanical room on two stories. The bays face onto the existing pavement so access onto a major road would already be in place. The storage area in the plan is large enough for all township storage requirements, for which $200,000 have already been set aside in the 2014 capital budget.

While well located, the site presented some design challenges, particularly with respect to its elevation. Fire trucks can only navigate slopes of 4 degrees or less, so significant excavation is required to build the bays at an elevation that will accommodate this restriction. Apparently the costs include $300,000 in excavation expenses to establish the building at the required grade.

The exterior of the building in the proposal uses materials that are similar to the existing façade to tie the new structure into the existing township building. The building is incorporates LEED design technology, but certification is not in the plan as this process adds significantly to building costs. The proposed structure addresses current health and safety, accessibility, potential environmental and building code deficiencies within the current fire station by providing shower facilities, decontamination areas, improved ventilation and a training room that will allow all Fire staff to participate in training activities. Administration portions of the building are located on the main floor while the lower level allows firefighters access to the apparatus bays for emergency response while not interfering with overall Township operations.

Capital budget discussions around this project to date utilized a $3.5 million price tag. In anticipation of the sticker shock, the designers ensured that items can be reviewed and or changed prior to the tendering process, and Chief Balfour was ready with suggestions on where there were possible reductions available. For example, the forecast is based on a 20% contingency fund which is $1 million, which could be reduced to an industry standard of 10% to 15%.   The actual construction hard costs come in at $3,777,023 which includes the structure, site works, furniture, fittings and equipment. This number is pushed up to $4,985,670 by the allowances and contingencies, which are based on industry standard guidelines. The contingency is included to offset the accuracy risk and assumes that the tender is issued within the next eight months.

Expect sharp pencils to be developing strategies to carve back some of the features and identify ways to stagger expenditures before a final Fire Hall plan is approved. KG

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