Officials break ground for fire station

Beds, office space and a community room will all be part of a new fire station.

“I think it’s going to be a great addition to the capacity of the department,” City Manager Mike Wildgen said. “It allows for better response, and we think it’s appropriate.

Local officials formally broke ground on fire station No. 5 March 16. The new station should be completed in early 2006.

The new station is expected to cost about $4.5 million in construction. Some controversy has surrounded the station under construction because project bids came in about $500,000 more than expected.

The total cost for the project has been estimated at $5 million, with the city of Lawrence covering 75 percent of the costs and Douglas County paying 25 percent.

The new station is planned for the southwest corner of 19th Street and Stewart Avenue on land leased from the Kansas University Endowment Association for $1 a year. It also would house fire and medical administration offices.

The high construction bids did have both city and county commissions struggling with how to handle the situation.

First Management was the low bidder at $4.57 million. Other bidders for the project were: Champion Builders, $4.64 million; McPherson Contractors, $4.65 million; and B.A. Green Construction, $4.87 million.

City commissioners approved the First Management bid on a 4-0 vote. Commissioner Sue Hack abstained because her husband’s insurance firm sold First Management a bid bond in the project.

Douglas County commissioners also accepted the bid from First Management on a 2-1 vote with Commissioner Jere McElhaney dissenting.

The fifth fire station is made up of 25,000 square feet, said John Reeves with Sabatini Architects Inc. He said the station includes a community and training room that will be located on the second floor.

“This station will help consolidate offices, and it will be good for meeting and training in general,” Wildgen said.

Firefighter memorabilia – most of it from Lawrence – also will be on display at the new fire station. Reeves said the photos, hats and coats would be moved from fire station No. 1.

Construction may be starting on the fifth fire station, but work also is being done to relocate fire station No. 4, said Wildgen and Reeves.