DUNEDIN — The city has hired an architectural firm to begin designing a bigger, better fire station that's anticipated to open just inside Highlander Park next year.
The Dunedin City Commission unanimously approved the $196,348 contract with Wannemacher Jensen Architects Inc. of St. Petersburg on Thursday night.
Officials estimate it will take six months to design a replacement for the city's oldest fire station, located inside the park on Ed Eckert Drive off Michigan Boulevard.
Station No. 61 has been targeted for replacement since at least 2000, when the first of two city assessments determined the 4,679-square-foot station was obsolete.
According to the report, the 40-year-old station is too small, sits in a flood zone, lacks sprinkler and lightning protection systems, and likely wouldn't withstand a hurricane. The building sits at a blind intersection with limited visibility east and west. Cars parked for special events often block the way in or out.
The new 7,500-square-foot station will be built closer to the park's Michigan Boulevard entrance and adjacent homes. It is to be built with environmentally friendly features, have a life expectancy of 75 years and be able to withstand a Category 4 storm.
Public Works director Doug Hutchens said Wannemacher Jensen, one of 26 firms to apply for the job, has designed more than 15 fire stations and recently completed its eighth green-certified station in St. Petersburg.
Once blueprints are in, Hutchens said, the city will meet with neighborhood residents. The project will come back for commission approval before the city obtains permits and hires a construction team.
"One of the things the architectural firm has been tasked with is to come up with a design that will complement the site. And that means not only (making sure it matches the look of) the adjacent buildings but also the residential component," Hutchens said to commissioners' questions about how the new station will fit in.
The city last summer budgeted $1.5 million for construction, which is expected to begin early next year and take eight months. Hutchens said Pinellas County will contribute 13 percent of costs.
In other action...
• It's unclear how or when city leaders will proceed with discussion of a new city logo. Commissioners followed City Manager Rob DiSpirito's recommendation to delay discussion Thursday following a last-minute discovery that a proposal designed Wilesmith Advertising amd Design of West Palm Beach is similar to the 11-year-old logo used by the St. Petersburg Pier.
Wilesmith founder Margaret Wilesmith said she hadn't seen the Pier's logo until contacted by the Times on Thursday afternoon. She initially said she would recommend withdrawing the Dunedin logo from consideration. But, minutes before the meeting began, she said she'd been too hasty: "They are dissimilar enough that I think the city has room to discuss it further."
• One of two pavilions under construction at J.C. Weaver Park will be named after city partner Coca-Cola Co. The commission voted 5-0 to honor the company for its longtime support, including a $135,000 contribution offsetting park maintenance costs over the last five years. Coca-Cola general manager Tim Goodwin said Thursday night that the company's Dunedin facility produces goods which are shipped across the entire United States and four other countries.
Keyonna Summers can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 445-4153. To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.