Shawnee council to consider $2.3 million increase in budget request after price tag of new fire station jumps 60%

A rendering of the proposed fire station.

By Jerry LaMartina

The anticipated cost to build Shawnee’s Fire Station 74 has jumped nearly 62 percent, from just over $3.6 million to nearly $5.9 million.

Fire Chief John Mattox addressed the Shawnee City Council at its Monday night meeting and said the reason for the increase was that he “didn’t ask the right questions” during an informal conversation about the project in 2016.

The original budget was limited to construction of the building and a fire truck, but it excluded costs for items including engineering, site preparation, furnishings and other equipment, bonds and contingencies for unexpected expenses.

“I asked what it would cost to build a new building, based on square footage, and they told me,” Mattox said during the meeting. “What I should’ve asked is, ‘What would a project like this cost?’”

Mattox said Wednesday that he appreciated “the council’s patience and understanding and continued support of the project.”

“If nothing else, I’ve learned a lot about construction …,” he said. “We gave (McCownGordon Construction LLC, the project’s construction manager) a budget (in late 2017), but there wasn’t even a conceptual plan. They were going on very, very little information, and, of course, as they started with us through the process, I think they quickly realized that we had underestimated what this was going to cost. We needed to get our arms around how much more it was going to cost before we brought it to the council.”

The council voted unanimously to table the request to approve the increase until its next meeting to give it more time to review the amended budget. Funding is proposed to come from either a combination of the unallocated county sales tax revenue and debt service or entirely from the debt service.

Mayor Michelle Distler said during the meeting that she preferred funding for the increase to come exclusively come from the county sales tax, along with a decrease of the mill levy for property taxes.

The council unanimously approved the station’s preliminary plan.

Last July, the council approved a $150,000 purchase of 1.66 acres of land at 53rd Street and Woodsonia Drive for the new fire station, and it approved hiring 12 firefighters to help staff the station.

The fire station is part of the city’s 2017-2022 Capital Improvement Plan, and is intended to address the growth of housing developments on the west side of the city.

The station is planned to include two drive-through apparatus bays, bunk rooms for six firefighters and additional support facilities, totaling 9,135 square feet. The station’s training room also will serve as a community room for neighborhood meetings. Its exterior will include a standing seam metal roof, brick, stucco and cast stone.

The targeted project timeline has groundbreaking slotted for April with anticipated occupancy by January 2019.