By GIB SNYDER
OBSERVER City Editor
The city of Dunkirk is going to try and take a look at its fire halls and what to do about repairs and/or replacement. A legal notice in the OBSERVER seeks requests for qualifications for "professional consultant services associated with fire department facility improvements."
Hose 4 on Doughty Street
Hose 3 on Middle Road
Headquarters on Eagle Street.
According to the ad, the city's primary objective with the Request for Qualifications is to enter into a contract with the most qualified professional consultant firm for professional services which will provide recommendations for repairs and improvements to existing fire halls, including any necessary structural analysis, the recommendation for possible expansion of an existing facility for centralized use or the possible construction of a new centralized facility.
Mayor Anthony J. Dolce was asked what the city's goal is with the RFQ.
"We decided to go the RFQ route because there's a lot to this project, so we felt that would be our best bet," he explained. "What will happen, and I've heard we've already received about 10 letters of interest, we opened this up statewide so there will be no shortage of applications to sort through. The challenging part on our end is sifting through so many and going to the next step with those. I think what we'll do is we'll have a narrowing down process and go from there."
At a recent meeting of Common Council's Public Safety Committee Fire Chief Keith Ahlstrom talked about the needs of the three fire halls. They were pretty much what he had told the committee in 2012.
The chief told the committee the Eagle Street headquarters needs a new roof, electrical, plumbing and technical upgrades. Structural issues on the 1911 building include a tower in need of demolition along with brick work and repair of the front parapet.
Station 3 was built in 1963 and needs roof work and a separating wall to be addressed, along with electrical, plumbing and heating deficiencies. Station 4 was opened in 1969 at its Doughty Street location and has no major structural issues, although the roof needs minor repairs and there are heating and plumbing issues. The electrical system in the building needs updating as well.
Dolce was asked what the scope of a project might be and how the RFQ figures in.
"What I'd like to see is companies that would be able to assess each fire hall, regardless of the scope," he replied. "We know some fire halls need a tremendous amount of work and some may only need minor repairs, so we'd like costs associated to each building and from that information we'll be able to make an informed decision on how best to proceed; whether that's one, two or keep all three fire halls open."
The next question concerned money - where will the funds come from to pay for a study of the buildings and any construction work that might follow.
"The initial part, the engineering, I believe we'll be able to fund out of the fire department lines," Dolce explained. "This is something we anticipated doing, the study part, not the construction or anything yet, but the study part we anticipated doing this year. I'm pretty confident we'll have money within the fire department's budget lines to fund the study."
The mayor was asked if there is a pre-determined spending limit.
"Obviously, we're looking to be most efficient so to me, I look at the goal of the study as giving us the numbers we need to make an informed decision. Again, does it make sense to only have one fire hall, possibly two, keeping all three open could be the most efficient. I don't know and that's what I need the study to help get us those answers," he replied. "We're in a position that we can't thumb our nose at any option, any possibility. Maybe there's a chance here for more collaboration with our neighboring communities. I really think that this study is necessary to see how far we can go."
The city has already purchased a new rescue truck with revenue from ambulance transports, a policy that began in 2011. Dolce said the revenue from 2013 transports is going to the general fund to help close a gap of almost $1 million in the 2013 General Fund.
"My thought at that time also was well, we can just take the 2014 revenues as we're going to need to address these fire halls and the money can go to repairs and/or new construction," he stated. "We know the condition of the fire halls is a topic that's been talked about for some time and we need to address it. They continue to deteriorate, it's like our fleets. How much good money do you want to put in old equipment. In this case old buildings that may be rehabitable or may not."
Dolce said he didn't have a preference at this point.
"I think what I could do best as an administrator is let the numbers show what's what. We know without a study that fire headquarters needs a tremendous amount of work. But how much does the city want to invest in building over 100 years old," he continued. "Maybe it makes more sense to have new construction. Maybe it makes sense to keep the other fire halls open. I don't want to have any preconceived notions nor do I want our selected engineer to have preconceived notions.
"That was part of my logic for going statewide. I want as true as you can get of someone independent looking at our fire halls and making a honest assessment."
The RFQ calls for detailed cost estimates for each facility in addition to costs related to possible expansion of or the construction of a centralized facility. Qualification packages will be received until June 4 at 10 a.m. in the mayor's office. RFQ documents may be obtained from the city's Department of Public Works.
A facility walk through is scheduled for May 14 at 10 a.m.
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