More money for fire HQ de­sign

Hopewell coun­cil agrees to fund up­dates, but wants to see where the dol­lars are go­ing

The Progress-Index - - FRONT PAGE - By Bill Atkin­son As­sis­tant Edi­tor

HOPEWELL— City Coun­cil has ap­proved more money for de­sign of the city’s lon­gawaited main fire sta­tion and head­quar­ters, but coun­cilors say they want to see ex­actly what they are pay­ing for be­fore any more money goes to­ward it.

On a 6-1 vote Tues­day night, coun­cil ap­proved the ap­pro­pri­a­tion of $190,000 to add some mod­i­fi­ca­tions to the sta­tion, which is slated for the in­ter­sec­tion of Ar­ling­ton Street and Win­ston Churchill Drive. The changes in­clude 1,400square feet more floor space to ac­com­mo­date six more bunk rooms, ad­just­ments of walls for more tech­nol­ogy space to cover off­side dis­as­ter re­cov­ery stor­age, three ad­di­tional dis­patch work­sta­tions, ex­tended equip­ment pad for park­ing, and in­stal­la­tion of a new traf­fic sig­nal in front of the sta­tion that the fire de­part­ment can con­trol dur­ing ini­tial re­sponses.

City Man­ager John M. Alt­man Jr. said the ap­pro­pri­a­tion was needed in or­der to have the de­sign ready when con­struc­tion bids are ac­cepted in spring 2019.

Alt­man told coun­cil the de­ci­sion to mod­ify the orig­i­nal de­sign for the fire sta­tion came af­ter con­sult­ing with city Fire Chief Don­ald Hunter. The orig­i­nal de­sign was drawn be­fore the city launched an ini­tia­tive to house the vol­un­teer res­cue squad with the fire de­part­ment at the new sta­tion.

The new fire sta­tion will re­place the 89-year-old build­ing on Hopewell Street that cur­rently serves as the fire de­part­ment head­quar­ters. The sta­tion is de­te­ri­o­rat­ing with age, and its prox­im­ity to a rail­road cross­ing cre­ated a prob­lem of re­sponse times be­ing de­layed by slow-mov­ing trains.

The fire sta­tion is part of a $7.7 mil­lion plan to build new com­mand cen­ters for city po­lice and fire that was started in 2013. Through the years, higher-than-ex­pected costs de­layed progress un­til 2017, when City Coun­cil de­cided to fo­cus on build­ing the $4.8 mil­lion po­lice head­quar­ters ad­ja­cent to the Mu­nic­i­pal Build­ing, and hold­ing off on the fire head­quar­ters un­til the po­lice build­ing was fin­ished.

Now with the po­lice build­ing com­ple­tion ex­pected later this year, the city wants to fo­cus on the fire sta­tion. But first, Alt­man told coun­cil, the de­sign needs some tin­ker­ing — and that is what the ap­pro­pri­a­tion re­quested Tues­day night will cover.

Some coun­cilors ex­pressed ap­pre­hen­sion over send­ing more money to­ward some­thing that has fallen off their radar in re­cent years. Coun­cilor Brenda S. Pel­ham,

who cast the lone dis­sent­ing vote on the ap­pro­pri­a­tion, said she did not feel com­fort­able spend­ing money with­out know­ing ex­actly what they were get­ting. But on the same to­ken, Pel­ham said she did not want her vote to con­strue that she was against the fire de­part­ment.

Alt­man and Hunter as­sured coun­cil that the reap­pro­pri­a­tion was not a sign the project was head­ing back to the draw­ing board. “We’re not start­ing over from scratch,” the city man­ager said.

Hunter told coun­cil that RRMM Ar­chi­tects, the firm de­sign­ing the build­ing, has “a con­cept of what they want to do,” but un­til they are paid the ad­di­tional money, no draw­ings will be made.

Vice Mayor Jas­mine E. Gore, who orig­i­nally in­tended to vote against the ap­pro­pri­a­tion, said her mind was changed af­ter hear­ing ex­pla­na­tions about how the money was be­ing used, But Gore also asked that the city staff pro­vide an up­date on the de­sign, es­pe­cially some new draw­ings, very soon.

Mayor Jackie M. Shor­nak said she sup­ported the ap­pro­pri­a­tion be­cause she has spent time at the old Hopewell Street head­quar­ters and found “hor­ri­ble con­di­tions” there, such as drafty walls, worn-out car­pet and mold. She said the city needs to pro­tect the health and safety of the fire re­spon­ders.

“We need to get them out of the down­town area and into a more cen­tral lo­ca­tion,” Shor­nak said.

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