The original plan was to build a new station on Highway 63/412, near the Sonic Restaurant. It was put on hold when bids obtained in August were too high.
A surprise proposal by Mayor Danny Traw to buy the Dillard GMC dealership, and remodel it into a fire station stirred controversy.
But a new proposal offered by a citizens committee appointed by the Mayor has gained enough support to seek new bids.
The committee chaired by Rob Driesel proposes buying the Dillard dealership, which has a $350,000 asking price, but use the building to house city hall, the police department and water and sewer departments.
A second phase of the project would build the fire station on undeveloped land on the dealership property. According to the committee, the station could be constructed for a surprisingly low price by using a steel building "kit."
Driesel told the council that he has talked to representatives of three kit building manufacturers, and all are interested in building the building, as well as supplying the kit.
One of the companies estimated the project would cost $275,000, which is nearly one-third of the lowest bid submitted last summer.
While Driesel said the estimated price was "turn key," councilman Thomas Rigsby said he found that hard to believe, since the kit building would be larger than the original building. The only changes are a brick front has been eliminated, and the structure would be one story instead of two.
Council members asked whether local contractors would be able to submit bids on the project. The Mayor assured them any licensed commercial builder would be allowed to bid on the project.
Glenn Allen of Allen Builders, the low bidder on the project bid last summer, said there would be questions of liability if one of the kit companies constructed the building, and the city contracted out site preparation and other work.
Driesel advised the city to use a "combo option," in which the company which manufactures the building would provide its own architect, build the firehouse, providing the labor for construction, dirt and concrete work.
Driesel called that the best option, cost wise, but added, "As a former city council member, I realize you would want some of the money to stay in the community (through the use of local contractors)."
Driesel advised the city should seek bids as quickly as possible, and stressed the dealership site gives the fire department a viable fire department location for quick response. He said, "As a citizen, I want to see what I get out of it."
The fire department is currently operating in temporary offices, and a pole barn has been constructed to house fire trucks. That is due to the former fire station being given to the White River Library Board, which is currently renovating it into a new main library there.
After the library project is completed, Driesel urged the council to take on another big project, seeking grants to improve the water department so that the city's ISO rating can be lowered, resulting in lower fire insurance rates.
Getting back to bidding on a new fire station, Allen asked how independent contractors will obtain blueprints and specifications on which to base bids, if a kit company was using an in-house architect to make the blueprints.
The Mayor said, "I will talk to Larry Bronson. He said he would help us out, if possible." Bronson is a local architect who works with White River Planning and Development, and is currently involved in the library project.
Driesel explained to the council that the bids it advertises need to be very specific. All details, including metal, insulation, heating and air, electrical and plumbing specifications, must be included in the advertised bid.
Council members Marty Goodwin and Thomas Rigsby expressed concern that the project will again come in over budget, but, in the end, the council unanimously voted to put the project out for a new round of bidding.