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Ash Flat Fire Department to move to temporary location

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A special meeting to discuss the relocation of the Ash Flat Fire Department during construction of the new library was called on Tuesday, Aug. 9, between city officials, Fire Department officials, White River Planning and Development officials and representatives from USDA, who are the administrators of the library grant.

Ash Flat Mayor Danny Traw suggested using the current fire department building to house the library in late 2009. Problems arose for the city when the fire department was notified they had two weeks to move out of the location, in order for library construction to begin. The fire department had nowhere to relocate to.

A misunderstanding about the specifics of the library building process between Traw and White River Planning and Development brought the issue to the forefront. Traw said, "It was my understanding the fire trucks were going to get to stay in the building during construction." During the meeting, he said he had other plans which fell through, when the location the city planned to utilize for the department was sold.

The City of Ash Flat received a grant and borrowed additional money for construction of the library, after prices increased from the time the grant was received until the project was bid.

As construction was due to begin on the library, the fire department had no choice for relocation, other than a small room adjoining the department, the current sleeping quarters and one bay which would not be affected by the construction process.

Fire Chief Stacy Horton said he was told he had two weeks to be moved out of the building and did not see how this would happen. After contacting the library's loan administrator Carrie Mcintosh with White River Planning and Development, she agreed there should be a meeting to discuss the city's options and clarify any misunderstandings. If the fire department relocation couldn't be settled, the city would risk losing the grant for the library, something no one wanted to happen. Mcintosh explained the city was under contract and the construction needed to begin, because the construction company was also under contract and had been given until Aug. 12 to begin the project.

After much discussion, including the possibility of moving the department to a rental area in a building owned by Bob Murphy, located behind The Interior.

The move across town was something Chief Horton did not favor. He said it made more sense to stay where they were. The other available option is to move the trucks out of the current location, build a privacy fence with a gate, and house the fire trucks outdoors until a new pole barn could be constructed near the current fire department. With the construction option, the city would be spending money on a building that would be utilized by the city after the fire department moves, rather than wasting money on rent.

The main issue the city is dealing with is time, due to contractor Precision Plus needing to meet their start deadline.

Larry Bronson, architect for the project, discussed construction specifics with the group, including the fact that the construction company had already hired subcontractors who needed to be in the building working as soon as possible. He explained the reason for the trucks having to be moved was due to the value of the fire trucks being greater than the entire renovation process, so leaving them within the building during construction could pose a problem for the contractor and the city in regards to liability.

Among other issues discussed included the time it will take the department to move into the back part of the building as renovations are also needed in that area. Because of having to cut off electricity during rewiring, Horton was concerned with slowed response times by the trucks being placed outdoors and having to physically open a gate. Security issues were also a concern with the department, but Bronson assured them, with lighting, fencing and increased patrol of the area, these problems could be minimized.

After a second special meeting on Aug. 13 with the city council, it was voted to move forward with accepting bids for the 40 x 60 metal pole barn to house the city's fire trucks.

Plans include placing the advertisement in the newspaper to run for two weeks, and then opening and awarding bids for the pole barn, so the department can get the fire trucks housed as quickly as possible.

Currently, the fire department is in the process of accepting bids for a new department to be housed at behind the Sonic in Ash Flat.

The bids for the new department will be opened Aug. 26, but there is still a long process ahead.

The Villager Journal will continue to follow the progression of both the library construction as well as that of the fire department in upcoming editions.

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