Plans to design and build a new Ocean City Fire Department fire station were presented to City Council members on Tuesday, and after trimming away some of the costs, the price tag has been reduced by $3.6 million since Aug. 31.
The original design called for a 28,000-square-foot building with several perks such as a training room, conference room, gym, 15 duty crew bunks, five dedicated live-in rooms, and five administrative offices, or flex rooms. All of that came with a price tag of $12.7 million for a project the city originally budgeted at $5.5 million.
The price shocked City Council members, who asked City Engineer Terry McGean and Fire Department Chief Richard Bowers to review the project and figure out how to get the cost closer to budget.
Bowers and McGean went over the new plans during a work session with council on Tuesday, saying the new price is $9.1 million, minus the proceeds from the sale of the current fire station at 74th Street in the amount of $1.5 million, ultimately costing the city $7.6 million.
“The new design and cost include compromise,” McGean said.
The building size decreased by almost 10,000 square feet by reducing the number of flex live-in spaces from five to two, dedicated live-in rooms from five to two, duty crew bunks from 15 to 12, and combining the conference room, upstairs day room, and training room into a single multi-use space.
The new plans also included a reduction of the northern two engine bays, while also allowing for future expansion to the roof over those bays to one day include a second floor.
Last year, McGean said, the building was going to be constructed on the site of the current fire house, but that would have required buying additional property to fit the new fire station, and it would not include the money that is expected to come from the sale of the current fire station because it would not go on the market. Additionally, housing would have been needed for the staff that lives at the fire station while construction was underway.
While most of the council was happy with the reduction in costs, Councilman Peter Buas asked who would own the building when it is complete.
If ownership has not been defined, he explained, the council may be jumping the gun.
McGean told Buas he “thinks” they have a commitment from the volunteers, though there may be issues regarding what form the ownership takes. But if the question is whether that can be hammered out while the building is being planned and designed, McGean said he thinks it can.
Bowers said the volunteers agreed to assist with the sale of the current fire station, which was also solidified by a vote from the company’s board of directors.
Still, Buas said it needed to be defined, as did Councilman Frank Knight.
In response to Buas’s concern, McGean suggested allowing the planning and development to continue, since they must return with more refined plans. Once those plans are presented, ownership documents will also be presented, according to McGean. The only piece on hold under his suggestion were the construction documents.
“Their word (the fire company) is good in my book,” Councilman Mark Paddack said. “I think we can work with them very clearly, as we’ve done in the past.”
When it came to a vote, the council voted 5-1 in favor of proceeding with the planning and development, except for the construction documents. Councilman Matt James voted against it.