High bids put anticipated fire station project on hold
Bids higher than available funds have put a planned expansion of the Tonganoxie fire station on hold.
Tonganoxie Fire Chief Dave Bennett told the Tonganoxie City Council on Monday the 10 bids returned for the expansion all came in higher than the $200,000 available for the project. The two lowest bids were from CDM for $220,861 and Wiles Construction of Tonganoxie for $223,309, he said.
Last spring, the council added $200,000 to a capital improvement bond in recognition of the need for the expansion that would add three bunkrooms, two bathrooms and increased space in the station’s work bay.
Bennett explained the need again Monday. The station now has one bathroom for the department’s 40 men and women firefighters, he said. The added sleeping space and restrooms would also further accommodate the department’s expansion to 24-hour coverage, which it was hoped would improve the city’s insurance rating and, thus, its ability to recruit business.
In the hopes of keeping costs down by avoiding engineering fees, contractors bid on the expansion as a design and bid project, Bennett said.
The fire chief apologized for the overruns, saying he had intended to do the wiring himself but a family situation would prevent him from doing so. He took numbers he shared with the council seriously, Bennett said, and has been under budget on his annual operational budgets since he became head of the department.
Bennett asked the council to approve the low bid so that he could negotiate cost-savings steps with the contractor. He also suggested the department’s reserve fund, which he had built up in recent years, be used to pay for costs in excess of the $200,000 available.
Council members balked at both suggestions.
Mayor Jason Ward questioned the fairness of negotiating with the low bidder about changes other contractors would not be allowed to consider, while Councilman Chris Donnelly — who had already raised concerns about the city’s debt obligation during discussion of refinancing the temporary note used to purchase the city’s new industrial park — said he didn’t know where the fire station expansion ranked among department’s priority needs the reserve fund would pay for.
Donnelly, Councilman Bill Peak and Councilwoman Paula Crook said the city should stay within the $200,000 budget for the expansion.
Bennett agreed, although that would mean scaling back on the scope of the expansion.
With that, the council agreed to reject all bids and have Bennett seek bids on a redesigned project.
In other action, the council:
• Approved the Conveniently Connected Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan the Tonganoxie Planning Commission developed in the past year.
• Approved Brady and Megan Garren’s application for s special use permit to operate a day care a 2016 E. Finch Dr.
• Approved Zane Peak’s application to operate a federally licensed firearms dealer business at 1177 S. Bury St. Crook voted against the application out of concerns that such a business wasn’t compatible in a residential neighborhood.
• Approved the hiring of Jarrod Gill as a full-time officer with the Tonganoxie Police Department and the hiring of Jeremiah Howell and Gabrielle Ruzicka as part-time officers.
• Agreed to form a professional search committee to make recommendations for the hiring of a new public works director, who will succeed the retiring Butch Rodgers.