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Bids approved for Suamico Fire Station No. 1

By Kevin Boneske
Staff Writer

SUAMICO – Several firefighters were in attendance wearing masks and sat 6 feet apart Monday, April 20, when the Suamico village board approved a series of bids to construct a new Fire Station No. 1 at the intersection of Deerfield Lane and Riverside Drive.

Board members unanimously favored a base bid of around $4.48 million to construct the two-story facility with more than 20,000 square feet, but they expressed their disagreement over whether to build out the second floor and add a sixth apparatus bay.

In January, the board approved a 15-year lease agreement, from April 1, 2021, to Dec. 31, 2035, in which County Rescue would use designated areas of the new station and pay the village $35,000 per year, prorated, provided the second floor would be completed.

The two board members who dissented, Village President Laura Nelson and Trustee Michelle Eckert, also expressed opposition to the second floor for an additional $315,796.

Though adding a sixth apparatus bay would not be necessary to house County Rescue, for which five bays in the new fire station could also accommodate an emergency medical service, the idea of Suamico obtaining a ladder truck in the future and then needing room for it in a building constructed to serve for the next 50-plus years prompted discussion.

Village Administrator Alex Kaker said a sixth bay would be needed to house a ladder truck along with the fire department’s existing equipment and County Rescue being in Fire Station No. 1, but because of costs, he recommended not adding it.

“I think it would be nice to have a sixth bay, but I do think we are already spending $6 million,” he said. “Yes, the number came in lower than estimated. Yes, the cost will never be this cheap for a sixth apparatus bay. But if we really want to try to balance the cost of the project and what our needs are, I think it makes the most sense to not approve the sixth apparatus bay. I know the fire department may disagree with me on that.”

Fire Chief Joe Bertler said equipment in Fire Station No. 2, which is currently full, could be moved into the sixth bay prior to the fire department having a ladder truck to place there.

Nelson and Eckert also opposed adding the sixth bay, but the other five board members voted in favor of it.

“The way I look at it, if this is a 50-year-plus building, if we needed (a sixth bay) in eight years or 10 years from now, it’s going to cost a hell of a lot more,” said Trustee Dan Roddan.

He said the sixth bay could provide space for a ladder truck in the future or whatever the fire department would want to use it for at this time.

Nelson said the village may not need a ladder truck for another 30 years.

“We don’t want to spend taxpayer money on something that’s just going to be storage at this point,” she said. “At least, I don’t, when there’s no reason at this point to do it.”

County Rescue qualms

Eckert also expressed concerns about entering into a 15-year contract with County Rescue.

Roddan said the village could be responsible for housing its own emergency medical service if County Rescue went away, while leasing space to County Rescue will pay for building out the second floor.

“We have to have it in our community, whether it’s County Rescue, or ourselves or another entity,” he said. “We have to have those rescue services here.”

At right, Chris Gabryszek, County Rescue director and Suamico assistant fire chief, discusses County Rescue’s emergency medical service coverage during the Monday, April 20, Suamico village board meeting.

County Rescue currently has its own facility in Suamico, but will move into the new Fire Station No. 1 with the lease agreement.

Chris Gabryszak, County Rescue director and an assistant Suamico fire chief, said County Rescue currently contracts with 22 municipalities and has four main stations, three it owns and one being co-located in village facilities in Howard.

Roddan said the second floor would also have amenities for the fire department.

Trustee Jason Ward said having County Rescue housed there would be a “mutually beneficial relationship.”

“I’ve said over and over, they’re not going to be sleeping on that couch for free,” Ward said. “They’re paying for it. I think there’s some benefit to having (County Rescue there). We have people on County Rescue who are also volunteer firefighters.”

Nelson said she didn’t favor spending around an additional $500,000 for the two alternate bids to build out the second floor and add the sixth bay.

“That’s a lot of money,” she said. “If you put it in the hands of these firefighters, they’re going to want every single one of these (alternative bids), and I’m a steward of the taxpayers of Suamico. I’m not here with a blank check.”

Eckert said opposition to the two alternate bids isn’t about “us versus them.”

“When we started talking about this (Fire Station No. 1 project), it was simple and it grew into something and it kept growing,” she said. “I think the base bid and maybe the concrete aprons, I’m going to be for that, because that’s more of the lines of what we started talking about, and not what it grew into. I don’t want to be us against them. I don’t want to be me against County Rescue, either.”

Trustee Sky Van Rossum said he favored “trying to make the right decision for the community.”

“Let’s be honest and truthful about it,” he said. “We’re not writing a $5 million check. We’re making a business decision to have $315,000 of that paid. In addition, we’re making a business decision for the entire Village of Suamico to save them another $160,000. It’s facts and data.”

County Rescue sought to have the second floor built as a condition to the lease agreement with the village.

Board members did not approve all the bids necessary to build the new fire station with the only bid submitted for overhead doors rejected because it did not meet bid specifications.

Kaker said the project could proceed with no delay anticipated with the village re-bidding the overhead doors to approve a qualified bid in May.

He said he expects construction on Fire Station No. 1 to start in the next couple of weeks, though no formal groundbreaking ceremony will be held because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kaker said the project is scheduled to be completed in early 2021.

The board also voted 5-2 with Nelson and Eckert dissenting to approve an initial resolution authorizing borrowing not to exceed $5.97 million for the Fire Station No. 1 project.

Kaker said the resolution authorizes the village to seek bids for the issuance of bonds with the board slated to approve a bond issuance in June.

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