Fire Station #2 taking shape
By MIKE EDDLEMAN
Headed north on Ronald Reagan, just past MorningStar and Santa Rita South, drivers reaching the crest of the hill are greeted with the can’t-miss sign of explosive growth as Fire Station 2 rises high above the open spaces on the west side of the road.
Williamson County ESD No. 4 is about four months from taking up residence in its second station, one that will be ready to serve the eastern end of the district as well as grow with it.
As Chief Anthony Lincoln walks the site and checks out the progress, he shakes his head at what looks like a giant facility, but he has to remind himself why it is all taking place.
“This is huge to me, but then I am used to being cramped downtown and we know we have to go a long time in this building and we need the space,” Lincoln said. “You look at the floor plan, and think, ‘okay, we are building this station to last for 50 years,’”
As with many real estate decisions, location was critical for the ESD.
“We were trying to get in a good location out here for the growth that was going on and we had to be in the heart of it,” Lincoln said. “I don’t think we will recognize this in five years. I look at how much it has changed in three years, I can’t imagine it in five.”
A fire station requires a lot of space, and a station being built to accommodate needs where growth is happening at a fast pace must plan for space it may not need today.
“It is designed to handle an engine company, ladder company and a medic company if that’s what they have before this whole area quits growing,” he said. “It was hard when we were designing square footage because we just don’t know how big this area is going to get.”
The 11,500-square-foot station is coming in at about $400 per square foot, and Lincoln said that number has already gone up for other local departments beginning new projects.
“There are some going in now at $425 per square foot already since we bid this,” he said.
The building looks much bigger from the outside due to the higher roof and expansive space in the bays and common area room, but overall space is not dramatically more than the current station.
“We’re right at 11,000 square feet downtown, too, it is just a different design,” Lincoln said. “There’s some vaulted space in the day room and then the truck bays are real tall.”
The 14-foot bay doors will be red and open to each side rather than roll up like most traditional firehouse bay doors. Inside, there is room for a variety of vehicles, including an eventual ladder truck when needed.
“This place has some bigger fans and exhaust systems that come on to pull the diesel exhaust out when you crank up the trucks,” Lincoln said.
There is a room on the south side of the building off the main truck bays where bunker gear will be stored.
“You go in our truck bay now and our bunker gear is out here and that’s bad because you’re in here with all that exhaust and your bunker gear is soaking up stuff,” Lincoln said. “There is a spot here for a washer extractor to clean your gear with. We didn’t buy one, but we plumbed for it.”
Next to the bunker gear storage area is a workout room.
Space has been included for Emergency Medical Services (EMS) should the need arise, but there is not currently an agreement in place with Williamson County to station EMS at the location.
An area designed for EMS includes a truck bay, storage, office space and two bedrooms can be left out of future projects if the same plans are used again.
“When we designed this, we designed part of it like a module that we can take out if we want to if we decide to use this floor plan again,” Lincoln said. “We know some things will change. I think you will see, on the west side of Liberty Hill, we will put up a station this big again.”
Lincoln said there is no fear the facility will seem empty.
“We’ll have enough equipment to fill this station as soon as we move into it,” he said. “You think you have a lot of room when you move in, but it is easy to fill.”
In the living space, there are 10 bedrooms and four full bathrooms, and are being built to eventually include some technology to help firefighters rest on shift.
“We have wired all of our bedrooms for a system that controls who is notified when we get an alarm call,” Lincoln said. “In a multi-company station you have guys on an engine company or ladder company and they can program each room each day so it will only wake you up if you get a call.”
At the north end of the station, near the main entrance, is office space, a conference room and another unique feature.
“What we did here differently is we put a (medical) treatment room in the front,” Lincoln said. “We get a lot of walk ups and so instead of having to treat them in your house or the lobby we put a treatment room in so you can have a place for them.”
At station one, Lincoln said they get about one medical walk up per week on average.
At the center of the station is the main common area – a huge open space for relaxing, cooking and eating.
The kitchen space will have food locker rooms with storage and refrigerators for each shift off the common area.
Having a place that is both comfortable and functional is critical, and making it as nice as possible is a bonus.
“Our crews work 48 hours on then they are off four days, so this is their home away from home,” Lincoln said. “But this is more about functionality. It’s not as nice as a custom home. A lot of it is about the guys being able to be comfortable when they come to work. I’m not big on making a statement with architecture, but I think it has some pretty features to it.”
The fire station sits on 3.052 acres donated by Santa Rita, on the west side of Ronald Reagan Boulevard north of Hwy. 29. The land is valued at $130,680 per acre, but will cost the ESD only $100 due to the title company.
During the initial planning, the goal was to keep the cost of the new station under a $4.5 million budget. Rising construction prices over the last two years made that difficult, but through meetings with the architects and contractor, the ESD was able to make some cuts through value engineering to get the cost down to about $4.7 million.
Lincoln said the anticipated opening date is currently late May.