The Ash Flat Fire Department is being temporarily housed in the back of what used to be the city's Fire Department, as construction on Ash Flat's new library begins.
Currently, the department is able to leave its trucks within the building, until work begins on the roof. Construction workers have gutted the office area and part of the walls in the back to make room for the library.
During a meeting earlier in the month, city council approved building a pole barn to house part of the city's six fire trucks, until a new fire department can be built.
Glen Allen was awarded the bid on the pole barn. His bid included 3 inch tubular steel construction for $20,908. He told the council he could begin the project the week of Sept. 5 and should be finished in two to three weeks.
The council then moved into discussion on the fate of the fire station.
Bids were received Aug. 29 for the construction of a new department, near Sonic in Ash Flat.
Glen Allen had the low bid of $720,655. Council discussed the price and came to the conclusion, with $55,400 in annual payments, the city would be strapped to afford the new building.
Fire Chief Stacy Horton explained the cost for the building was always estimated at about $600,000 to $650,000. He said there were options included within the bid that could be removed, including the police department. He said the specifications book used during the bidding process also included exceptions that would save money on the bid.
Mayor Danny Traw said, "If you change anything in the spec book, you have to rebid it."
Allen disagreed saying, "All bidders bid apples for apples. You can negotiate with the low bidder." He explained he could exclude approximately $46,000 from his bid.
Discussion then ensued about whether or not to include the police station in the fire department project. Traw said most safety meetings he has attended suggests separating the two.
The city is currently spending $900 a month to house the police department, and Traw said he would want the police department included if the city chose to build the new department.
Traw presented a second option for the fire department, one which sparked a lot of discussion.
He said he had been in contact with Terry Dillard, owner of the Dillard GMC dealership in Ash Flat. Traw said the building will come available Jan. 1, and the city could purchase it and renovate it for the fire department.
Traw said he "had a builder walk through it with me and take measurements." Traw said he estimated it would cost $100,000 to renovate the building. The mayor said Dillard has not put the building and its seven acres on the market yet, and won't until the city decides if it wants to purchase it.
Allen, who is both a residential and commercial licensed builder, said he thinks it will cost much more to renovate the building. Traw would not say who the person was that he had "walk through" the Dillard building with him, because he said the builder was also planning to bid on the project.
Council was then asked their opinions by the mayor, in an attempt to make progress on the issue. While all were in agreement, they would love to have a new building, the cost was out of range for the city.
Alderman Jeral Lesley said, "My concern is with the money situation. I value our employees and the great job they do. I don't want to get into a situation where we can't reward our employees at the end of the year."
Council was unanimous on having the mayor bring a written statement from Dillard stating he would sell the property to the city, including the date of January 1 and a proposed price.
The possibility of not obtaining the building and property, which would put the city back to square one in regard to the fire department, was the main concern of the council.
Even if the city is able to get the property, it will have to bid out renovations. Traw said this would be much faster than building a new building, and the police and city hall could both use the facility.
When asked his opinion by the mayor, Alderman Tom Rigsby said, " I am just tired of the "if's." We have tossed this around for two years." Rigsby then asked the mayor why he did not have Dillard present at council. Traw explained he was not invited. Rigsby then questioned his reasoning in taking someone through the building to give him a price on the renovations before presenting the option to council. The mayor explained it was within the scope of his job as mayor. Traw asked for a motion for adjournment and said he would get the required paperwork and schedule a second special meeting to discuss the fire department's future.