Fairview Council Struggling to Meet Ballot Deadline For Firehouse No. 1 Bond Measure
The routine work session scheduled for the Fairview Town Council and members of the Community Resource Group (CRG) on Wednesday, January 9, was anything but routine.
The meeting was supposed to allow the Council to wrap-up an overview of the status of the Fire Station Design Program (for the proposed new Fire Station No. 1); to review revised plans and costs; and, to permit the Council to identify elements of the program that are satisfactory, as well as elements that need additional refinement, and to identify any questions that remain related to the program or costs. All this was to occur in just three and one-half hours.
The goal of the session was to identify a design and cost that would be finalized by the 16th (of January) such that funding options could be reviewed and finalized at another work session on January 16 with one additional final work session set for January 24. The ambitious schedule laid out by the Council is designed to allow for the approval of a bond package to appear on the May 4th election ballot. February 16th is the deadline for the submission of any proposed ballot measures.
The meeting began routinely enough with the Council, staff and consultants from Byrne Construction and Brinkley, Sargent and Wiginton Architects reviewing the progress of the project designs that took place throughout 2018. The original design called for a structure of approximately 19,000 square feet that had since been pared down to 16,414 square feet by August 2018. In addition to the reduction in size many elements of the August 2018 rendering of the plan were deleted such as replacing several large bay doors with less expensive doors, deleting an entire bay for apparatus, deleting the hardening of a generator, revising the grading of the site plan, reducing site paving work, and removing audio and video equipment and installation from construction costs among many other changes. The net savings of these and other revisions would be roughly $1,500,000 to $1,800,000 depending upon which of the two new options might be selected by the Council; the first option consisting of 13,311 square feet would cost a total of $7,421,956 for construction at a per square foot price of $557.58. The second option laid out is 12,879 square feet at a total construction cost of $7,240,078 and a per square foot cost of $562.16.
As soon as the discussion turned to the two options now being considered the Council and consultants were constantly peppered with questions and criticism of the process. Several CRG members demanded to see line item explanations of cost reductions. Several CRG members questioned why the per square foot cost of the less costly options was higher than the original per square foot cost. Attempts to explain that while the size of the two new options are significantly smaller than the original proposal, the square foot cost is higher because it is dividing the total cost by a smaller footprint failed. It became quickly apparent that many of the members of the CRG are very displeased with the direction and progress of the project. One resident described the process as “A circus”.
A new and serious issue was raised by residents of the Domain subdivision located at Lakeridge Drive off Highway 5 (Greenville Avenue) where typical homes are four or five bedrooms with values approaching $1 million or more. Residents complained that the location of the new fire station at the intersection of Highway 5 and Lakeridge Drive would worsen current and serious water run-off that regularly floods the neighborhood. One resident demanded that if the fire station were to be built at the proposed location, he expects the Town of Fairview to purchase his home. He related how it was necessary for him to hand dig a four-foot deep trench on town property to hold back flood waters, a project that he says took him three days to accomplish. Town Engineer James Chancellor responded by assuring the homeowner that the town could easily regrade and reroute the path of the water to ensure that it would no longer be an issue. Residents of the Domain did not appear to be convinced. Mayor Darion Culbertson assured them that, “Our goal is not to make matters worse but to resolve such issues.” Culbertson asked Chancellor to meet with the Domain Homeowners Association to devise a solution acceptable to all. This issue alone seems to seriously threaten the current schedule that has been designed to allow a bond measure to fund the project to be included on the May ballot. Another member of the CRG offered that, “It seems like the plan is being rushed through. Why the rush? Aren’t there other locations that could be considered?”
Fire Chief Jeff Bell was asked if he was satisfied with the latest versions of the fire station design. He replied that he was very satisfied with the two current options.
Another discussion focused on the conference room that is sized to accommodate 16 people. Chief Bell noted that, “We often meet with developers and contractors to review building plans and we need an appropriate space to do this.” Several residents commented about reducing the size of the conference room or eliminating it entirely making use instead of meeting space at Fire Station No. 2 or even Town Hall. Both of those suggestions were rejected as not feasible.
Several residents commented about not having received information in advance of the meeting, something that they said would help them digest a lot of the detailed information about the project.
Given the scope and complexity of the issues that are still to be determined, coupled with the level of frustration expressed by members of the CRG, it seems unlikely that all that must be accomplished, including addressing the concerns of CRG members appropriately, could be achieved in order to meet the February 16th deadline.
Ron Cox Consulting was hired by the Town Council in early 2018 to prepare a survey of the CRG members and provide the Council with recommendations intended to secure a successful bond measure. The survey focused on why the November 2017 bond proposal failed so spectacularly and what strategies might be employed going forward. In a March 6, 2018 letter to the Town Manager Cox stated among other conclusions: “First Things First – For Council and CRG. Be patient with the process and with its timing. Allow time for the process. Do not rush to the next election date but be certain there is understanding and willingness to more forward when the timing is right.”