Financing set for Fire Station #2

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By MIKE EDDLEMAN

The second fire station for the Liberty Hill area is one step closer to reality as financing was secured Monday for the facility, expected to cost around $4.5 million.

The Williamson County Emergency Services District (WCESD) No. 4 commissioners unanimously approved bids by Government Capital for both the new station and a new cab and chassis purchase. The vote was 4-0, with President Dan Clark absent from the meeting.

The station will be financed for 20 years at a 4.35 percent interest rate.

“The majority of the vendors didn’t want to lock us down for a 20-year rate, which makes it really hard to budget,” said Fire Chief Anthony Lincoln. “We’re working to keep (the station) at under $4.5 million, which is what we plan to do.”

When the project began, in an effort to do some long-term budget planning, Lincoln projected the annual debt service on the new station at around $210,000, but the number now is closer to $340,000, with final costs of the project outstanding. Lincoln knew it would be difficult to be precise with the original numbers, and while he likened the feeling to taking on a much larger house payment than expected, he had no concerns about managing the debt.

“We missed that (budgeted target) in a lot of ways because the interest rate went up and then the overall cost of the project has crept up, too,” he said. “We started this a couple of years back and we knew it was coming and I was trying to prepare the board. We were trying to make best guess projections based on information then and everything in this area has changed.”

The permanent station is set to be about 10,500 square feet. Lincoln hopes to save some on the $4.5 million estimate, but is confident the project will be within that budget.

The construction manager – Sabre Construction – is working closely with the architects – PGAL – this week to finalize.

“They (Sabre) have to guarantee a price not to exceed,” Lincoln said. “They did some preliminary stuff at about 30 percent of plans, trying to see where they were at, now they’re much closer in their final bidding process.”

Depending on the final numbers, Lincoln will meet with commissioners to determine what might be trimmed or changed to stay within the budget, but there is a balance.

“I really don’t want to borrow any more than I have to,” he said. “Every time you add another penny to it the payment goes up. It comes down to functionality. It doesn’t do any good to have this big fire station if you don’t have the things in it you need to make it functional.”

The site for the station is three acres and is off Ronald Reagan, north of State Highway 29, right near the entrance of Santa Rita North.

The new station is anticipated to cover the eastern portion of the ESD, roughly east of US Highway 183, including the area east of the North Fork of the San Gabriel River on the north end of the district.

Lincoln said the department is now looking at the station opening in December. The station will have an engine company with three to four firefighters and room for EMS should the need arise in the future.

The ESD is currently seeking a temporary location for firefighters and a smaller brush truck to provide more service to the area where the second fire station is slated until the building construction is finalized.

“Our call volume continues to increase out there,” Lincoln said. “We’re trying to bring our response times down and get us something out there until we get that station open.”

In response to the second request for proposal for the new cab and chassis already scheduled for purchase, the ESD received a five-year term at 3.05 percent interest on a $210,000 loan, also from Government Capital.
Final additions

The new fire truck, set to be delivered later this month, which will be eventually housed at the new station, also has a long list of new equipment.

Commissioners unanimously approved the purchase of equipment for the truck.

“The total list is $175,000,” Lincoln said. “Some of this stuff is bought through competitive pricing, some of it off contract and some is sole source. It is quite a laundry list for getting all of it and meeting our purchasing policies.”

The list included rescue tools, self-contained breathing apparatus, hand tools, hose adapters, radios, hose and a computer and docking station. The long list of equipment is being purchased through 25 different vendors, and this time around, because no other truck was being taken out of service, everything had to be purchased.

“That’s what it takes when you order a fire truck,” Lincoln said. “It’s just a basic fire truck, it’s got a couple of ladders on it, some pipe poles, but it has no fire equipment on it. We have nothing to switch from any apparatus.”
Reappointments

The Board announced that the Williamson County Commissioners Court had reappointed Jeffrey Roemer and Keith Bright to the board. A vote on new election of officers was tabled until the March meeting due to the absence of Clark.

Mike@LHIndependent.com

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