With the estimate for renovating the flood-damaged downtown fire station nearly $500,000 over budget, city officials decided Monday night to complete the project in phases and look for ways to cut costs.
Many of the residents at the meeting urged the City Council to repair Fire Station No. 2 on Sixth Avenue. Keeping the downtown station would maintain shorter response times to historic buildings and the residents south of town, they argued.
The less-costly alternative - shutting the downtown station and expanding Fire Station No. 1 on Dairy Road- would move more crews north. Residents to the south worried their insurance premiums could go up.
"You move everything we've got three minutes that way, we're going to lose lives and property," said Bob Winters of Winters Mobile Home Park in south Zephyrhills. "A life's worth a whole lot."
Council members agreed to move forward on the downtown station repairs, although they were frustrated that the latest costs were considerably higher than budgeted.
The architectural firm Collman and Karsky outlined several options. The most cost effective price for renovating the downtown Station No. 2 was more than $1.2 million. Building a new station elsewhere was priced at a little more than $1 million. Renovating and expanding Station No. 1 would cost about $840,000.
All estimates were more than the project's budget of $740,000.
Council president Jodi Wilkeson said she was dismayed to see the original price analysis did not include structural hardening and reinforcement for the structure. She said she believed savings on the original plans were derived from reorganizing the floor plan.
Council vice president Lance Smith shared Wilkeson's dismay. He pointed out that professional service fees, like engineering, would take additional funds not mentioned in Collman and Karsky's estimate.
"We could be looking for another $100,000 or $120,000, Smith said. "Where's the other option? Do we have an option six in here?"
Wilkeson said she was so frustrated with the rising costs on the downtown station that she was ready to "throw the baby out with the bath water." But she still wanted to see the renovations become a reality, even if they happened in stages.
Wilkeson also talked about cutting costs by having other entities work on the fire station, such as having the firefighters install the flooring.
The council unanimously voted to proceed with a reduction in costs and scope of the project to try to keep the renovations moving forward after more debate.
"We've already looked at the wish list," Wilkeson said. "Now we've got to look at reality."
In other news:
The council voted unanimously to require permit applicants to pay the administrative fees for traffic studies, drainage reviews and final plat reviews for all building projects. The fees vary based on the size of the project. In the past, the city required developers for larger projects to pay the fees, but waived them for smaller projects. "We would like to make it uniform for everybody," said City Manager Steve Spina.