Council committee gives first green light to expansion/renovation of Central Fire Station

LACONIA — The Land and Buildings Committee last night unanimously agreed to recommend the City Council appropriate $67,400 to fund a contract with Warrenstreet Architects, Inc. of Concord to prepare a schematic design and cost estimate of the expansion and renovation of the Central Fire Station.

The meeting was convened after Fire Chief Ken Erickson and Deputy Chief Charlie Roffo presented a conceptual plan for the project to the council in February, which differed from the original proposal presented in 2008. Councilors Henry Lipman (Ward 3) and Bob Hamel (Ward (3) were surprised to discover the plan had changed and requested an explanation.

Roffo reminded the committee that the department began planning in 2006 and, after working with several architectural firms and different designs, settled on a conceptual plan in 2008. However, he said that as time passed "we became concerned at the cost, which was approaching $5 million." In particular, he said that too much was being spent on the apparatus bay and converting the mezzanine and third floor to administrative space. "We asked can we get the programs we want incorporated into the design and hold down the cost of the project," he said.

The revised plan presented to the council in February and the committee last night includes the renovation of 13,135-square-feet of the existing station to serve as an apparatus bay and training area and the construction of a two-story, 12,000-square-foot addition to house the administrative offices, emergency operations center and dormitory. He estimated the cost of the project at $4,187,000.

Roffo said that because the department has reduced the size of its fleet and no longer houses a mechanic, the station, with the addition of one bay at the south end of the building where a driveway now leads to the rear parking lot, will accommodate all its apparatus. The new addition would have public access and parking off Tremont Street, eliminating vehicle and pedestrian traffic from the apron in front of the apparatus bay.
City Manager Scott Myers has included a borrowing of $4.1 million for the project in his 2014-2015 budget. However, the estimate is based on a conceptual plan and a schematic design is required for a more accurate estimate of the construction cost.
Jonathan Halle of Warrenstreet told the committee that for the $67,400 an estimate within 5 or 10 percent could be prepared. If the City Council chooses to proceed with the project, the firm would prepare the construction documents required to put the work to bid for another $101,500. He said that the work could be bid later this year and construction begun as early as October. Alternatively the project could be undertaken in 2015 and completed in one construction season.
Myers assured the committee that the city could manage the principal and interest payments on a borrowing of $4.1 million at 4.25 percent with a 20-year term within its self-imposed limit of $3.282 million, but for four years. But, he suggested if the limit on annual debt service were annually adjusted for inflation at a conservative rate of 1.5-percent, it would never be exceeded.