Site for new fire sta­tion lo­cated

NLR finds place on Pike Av­enue

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - ARKANSAS - JAKE SANDLIN

North Lit­tle Rock has ze­roed in on a Pike Av­enue lo­ca­tion as the site for a new fire sta­tion to re­place the nearly 55-year-old Levy sta­tion that an­swers the most emer­gency calls in the city.

Mayor Joe Smith is spon­sor­ing a res­o­lu­tion for the City Coun­cil to con­sider an of­fer and ac­cep­tance to buy 2.2 acres from Bobby Brant for $350,000. The prop­erty, at 3919 and 3921 Pike Ave., ap­praised for $390,000 last May, ac­cord­ing to the leg­is­la­tion.

The City Coun­cil will meet at 6 p.m. Mon­day.

Re­plac­ing Fire Sta­tion No. 6, at 3500 Camp Robin­son Road, was part of the 2017 spe­cial elec­tion in which vot­ers ap­proved a 1 per­cent city sales tax pack­age. A por­tion of the tax pack­age is to pro­vide $10 mil­lion over five years for new or ren­o­vated fire sta­tions.

The fire sta­tion funds are from the one-half per­cent por­tion of the tax. Funds for a new po­lice and courts build­ing, and street

and drainage work city­wide are also part of the es­ti­mated $40 mil­lion to­tal from that one-half per­cent tax.

The other one-half per­cent of the sales tax is per­ma­nent to pro­vide rev­enue for the gen­eral fund, which pays for city op­er­a­tions and ser­vices.

An ex­act cost pro­jec­tion for the new fire sta­tion won’t be known un­til the city hires an ar­chi­tect, but Smith said he wants the new sta­tion built as eco­nom­i­cally as pos­si­ble so more money will be avail­able for work at other sta­tions.

“I looked at sev­eral sta­tions,” Smith said, re­fer­ring to other cities with re­cently built fire sta­tions. “All were about $2.2 mil­lion to $2.5 mil­lion. I think we can build one cheaper.”

Smith said he plans to chal­lenge ar­chi­tects to “not look at a cookie-cut­ter de­sign, but to come up with our own brand.” He said he hopes the city can break ground on the sta­tion this sum­mer.

“The less ex­pen­sive I can build a sta­tion, the more I can build,” he said. “If we can get down to $1.2 mil­lion, we might build four or five new ones in­stead of ren­o­vat­ing them. That’s a chal­lenge go­ing to the ar­chi­tect. Find a North Lit­tle Rock hy­brid that has qual­ity and also is eco­nom­i­cal.”

Af­ter the city’s pro­jected cost of $20 mil­lion for the new po­lice and courts build­ing rose to $30 mil­lion, Smith said he is “some­what” con­cerned about city es­ti­mates on build­ing a fire sta­tion. But, he said, fire sta­tions won’t re­quire as much steel as the po­lice build­ing.

North Lit­tle Rock has 160 cer­ti­fied fire­fight­ers at its 11 fire sta­tions. In 2017, the Fire Depart­ment con­ducted as­sess­ments of cur­rent and fu­ture needs for all of its fire sta­tions.

Re­plac­ing the Levy sta­tion, built in 1964, be­came a pri­or­ity. It had the most de­fi­cien­cies, in­clud­ing cracked ceil­ing beams, crum­bling con­crete blocks in its walls and roof leaks.

The Levy sta­tion’s ser­vice area cov­ers all of Levy and Park Hill, and helps the Cen­tral Fire Sta­tion near down­town, Fire Chief Ger­ald Tucker said.

“They pretty much run with ev­ery com­pany third-in ex­cept Sta­tions 10 and 11 that are out east,” Tucker said. “It’s our busiest run­ning sta­tion. Last year it was right at 2,900 calls.”

The city con­sid­ered two other sites for a new Pike Av­enue sta­tion, Tucker said. One be­came too ex­pen­sive, and the other was too small, he said.

Though on the nar­rower Pike Av­enue, in­stead of the four-lane Camp Robin­son Road, where the cur­rent sta­tion is, the new site pro­vides quick ac­cess to Camp Robin­son Road and, via Doyle Ven­able Drive, to MacArthur Drive (Arkansas 365) and In­ter­state 40.

“It’s in close prox­im­ity to where the orig­i­nal sta­tion is,” Tucker said. “The free­way is right there. It’s not hemmed in at all.

“And it’s got a large stor­age build­ing, about 10,000-squarefeet big, to park all our ap­pa­ra­tus in to get them out of the weather, plus we’ll be able to put a lot of stor­age in it,” Tucker said. “The site is large

enough that if, for some rea­son, we ever need to ex­pand, there will be plenty of room to ex­pand.”

Sta­tion No. 8, at 6550 MacArthur Drive, could be the next fire sta­tion to move. Plans are to build a new sta­tion on a 2-acre site in­side Burns Park, across from Burns Park Hos­pi­tal­ity House, Smith said.

Sta­tion No. 7, at 2401 McCain Blvd., cov­ers the Lake­wood neigh­bor­hood. It is the first to un­dergo a com­plete ren­o­va­tion us­ing the new tax money. The sta­tion closed in Novem­ber and is sched­uled to re­open by the end of April, Tucker said. The project is bud­geted at $962,550, ac­cord­ing to a city spokesman.

“The sta­tion we’ll go af­ter next is the one on Maumelle Boule­vard,” Tucker said, re­fer­ring to Sta­tion No. 4, 8723 Maumelle Blvd. “It has some wa­ter is­sues, leaks in­side the build­ing. Start­ing [this month] or in March we will do the dis­cov­ery phase to see what needs to be fixed on that.”

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