The Examiner

New Castle Fire Commissioners Working Toward Firehouse Expansion Vote

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New Castle Fire House Expansion Renderings
The latest artist’s rendering of the proposed expansion of the New Castle firehouse on King Street and Route 117. Fire commissioners are preparing to hold a vote sometime next year.

New Castle Fire District No. 1 commissioners are expected to decide in the coming weeks when they will put the King Street firehouse expansion proposition up for a vote.

Erik Nicolaysen, chairman of the district’s Board of Commissioners, said late last month that the board is likely to come up with a decision within 60 days when the referendum might be presented to voters. Complicating the situation is that there will be a new commissioner who will come on the board, to replace Commissioner Anthony Oliveri, he said.

During that time, the district will also be creating informational material about the project that will be sent to voters, which will include detailed financial data.

“I think we have to come back with an estimate of how much it’s going to cost us to do that,” Nicolaysen said.

He gave no precise indication when a vote could be held next year.

On Oct. 20, the board met virtually with architect Bob Mitchell to review the next steps as drawings for the expansion are being refined. Mitchell said the schematic design has been completed, which will be followed by design development before a more accurate estimate can be provided.

“What we are suggesting to the district is that they proceed with that at this time and have that more detailed estimate to take to the voters and to be able to say with a higher level of confidence what that number is, and have less value applied to a contingency number to account for things that are in the guessing category,” Mitchell said.

Before its meeting with Mitchell, the district uploaded estimates onto its website for the tentative expansion project from Mar. 17. Nicolaysen said that the latest numbers are fairly close to what had been posted but there is the possibility that could change. The expansion, which would be a two-story addition, is roughly the same as the soundly defeated 2016 referendum with some reductions, he said.

In March, the total projected cost was $12,064,228. That figure included $10,217,806 in hard construction costs and $1,846,422 in soft costs.

At that time, commissioners had been planning to use $1 million from its reserve funds and for the Mount Pleasant portion of the district to contribute $1,430,493, about 14 percent of the estimated total cost. That would have forced the district to finance more than $9.6 million.

Mitchell said that the design development stage takes up to three months. He told commissioners that there are health and safety issues that are needed in a modern firehouse that don’t exist in the current facility, including the ability to clean equipment after firefighters return from a blaze to quickly eliminate carcinogens and having uncluttered access to the truck and equipment that must be stored in safe and logical spaces.

Getting out of the building in a quick and efficient matter is essential for a fire department, he said.

“We say there should be nothing on the floor but tires and feet, and to get to that place you basically have to plan for where everything should be,” Mitchell said. “Not just where it is to be off the floor, but be where it is to make it logical to find, logical to put back.”

The expanded building would also have space for firefighters to engage in training rather than expending resources to go to the county’s facility in Valhalla, he said.

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