Council puts brakes on firehouse bid process

Although commission favors forging ahead, Port aldermen want more time to explore deal with Saukville
Ozaukee Press staff

The Port Washington Common Council on Tuesday agreed to hold off on seeking a request for proposals to design a new firehouse until its Tuesday, Oct. 1, meeting.

By that time, aldermen hope to have a better idea if the Village of Saukville is receptive to working out a deal that would allow the city to extend sewer service to the former Schanen farm on Highway 33 — the city’s preferred site for the new fire station.

If the council hasn’t heard back from Saukville by its next meeting, aldermen said, they will send out the request for proposals.

Village Administrator Dawn Wagner said the board would discuss the issue further at its Tuesday, Sept. 24, meeting, City Administrator Mark Grams said. 

“I do think we need to see what happens with the Saukville discussions,” Ald. Dan Benning, a member of the fire station taskforce, said. “It’s a big factor.”

“If they decide they need more time, then we do what we have to do (and send out the request),” Grams said. 

While the city is poised to work with the Village of Saukville, a joint project proposed by Ozaukee County to be built at the Justice Center is no longer in the works, Mayor Marty Becker said.

County Administrator Jason Dzwinel notified the city that the Schanen property “does not make logical sense for what the county needs,” Becker said.

Dzwinel told Ozaukee Press that the county’s offer to work together stands if the Justice Center is the site.

“The location of utilities, security and IT infrastructure and proximity to the Sheriff’s Department at the Justice Center does not make an off-site location viable for county needs,” he said. 

“Without understanding the costs of construction at the Schanen site, I cannot say that it would be ruled out completely but the benefits would have to significantly outweigh those we have identified at the Justice Center.”

Even as the process moves ahead, Grams said aldermen need to take a hard look at what’s proposed and the impact the projected $5 million pricetag will have.

“You’ll be taxing the taxpayers right out of their houses,” he said.

Grams noted that when discussions about a new fire station began years ago, officials were looking at a satellite station to house an ambulance and a fire truck.

“We’ve got not only that but a training room and living quarters for eight people,” he said.

The proposal calls for workout facilities at the new and old buildings, Grams added, saying, “I don’t think we need that. Instead of spending money on that, I’d rather put the money toward something else — maybe streets. 

“I think you have to be realistic. What are your true needs going to be?”

It’s likely that in the future there will be a regional fire department, he added, which would impact the city’s needs.

Benning, a member of the Finance and License Committee, said the city needs to take a hard look at its capital project list, balancing the needs of the fire department as well as other city departments.

The city also needs to look at other ways to finance projects besides borrowing, he said.

The proposals being sought will help, Benning said, by giving the city a true idea of how much the fire station project will cost.

“We said $5 million but I don’t know if that’s a good number,” he said.

Ald. Paul Neumyer echoed Benning’s concerns about the budget, saying, “When you build a new house, you don’t get everything you want. The costs have got to be kept in line.”

The request for proposals to design the new fire station was approved by the Police and Fire Commission Monday and reviewed by the Finance and License Committee Tuesday before the council looked at it.

It specifies that the station be located on three to five acres of the Schanen property, which is owned by the city, and that the facility be an energy-efficient building of 15,000 to 20,000 square feet with six pull through apparatus bays, an equipment layout and training area, eight separate dorm rooms with male and female locker rooms.

The building should have a secure EMS supply room, offices for the chief and officers, workshops and vehicle maintenance areas, a workout facility, kitchen, lounge, conference room and a training room for 100 people with a public entrance.

In addition, the request asks that firms look at remodeling the existing fire station to add dorm rooms, locker facilities for men and women, a workout facility, updated parking and entrances, energy-efficient doors and windows and expand the fire detection and suppression system.

The request had anticipated that proposals would be submitted to the city by Oct. 4, with a firm selected and contract awarded by Nov. 1.

That deadline, however, will have to be changed since the council delayed action.

Ald. Mike Gasper questioned the process, asking how the city can expect to get a “reasonable price” without a specific site or a specific place on the Schanen farm.

The fire house would be built on the proposed commercial lots on the north side of the Schanen property, next to the Aurora medical building and with a driveway that would line up with Sweetwater Boulevard, Becker and Benning said.

Gasper also suggested the city consider separately seeking proposals for the new station and renovations to the existing facility, saying it may bring down the cost.


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