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Clearwater looks to build cheaper downtown fire station

CLEARWATER — Last month, the City Council balked at the idea of building a $13.3 million fire station downtown. Too expensive, council members said. They were floored to learn the price had climbed so high.

Now they are considering a couple of cheaper options. At their regular meeting Thursday night, council members will likely decide between two designs for the new station.

One look, a somewhat stripped-down version of the original design, would cut $1.9 million from the cost.

An even cheaper design, which resembles a bare concrete box, would reduce the cost by $2.4 million.

Council members are torn. They want to save money, but they also want the city to look good. The new fire station is to be built on a highly visible spot along the main route to Clearwater Beach — a city-owned vacant lot on the north side of Court Street just east of S Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue.

"One is going to be a vanilla box. The other is going to have Mediterranean-style architecture," council member Doreen Hock-DiPolito said as officials reviewed the designs Tuesday. "I believe we owe it to the city to give it a little bit of aesthetics. A vanilla box is not okay."

"I don't want a square block. I want the Mediterranean architecture," said council member Jay Polglaze. But, like others on the council, he still had a lot of questions about the cost.

The new Fire Station 45 will replace an older station at Franklin Street and Garden Avenue. Like the current downtown station, the new building will serve as the Clearwater Fire Department's headquarters.

It's envisioned as a three-story, 33,000-square-foot building that could withstand Category 5 hurricane winds. It would have vehicle bays on the first floor, firefighter living quarters on the second, and offices on the third.

After the council rejected the $13.3 million version last month, a group of fire officials, architects and engineers went back to the drawing board to cut costs. They came up with a stripped-down design using cheaper materials. Also, the station will no longer be a LEED-certified "green" building. That's too pricey, it turns out.

"We worked very diligently to reduce the costs, but at the same time not reduce the functionality of the facility itself," said Fire Chief Robert Weiss.

"Option 1," which cuts nearly $1.9 million from the station's overall price, would cost nearly $9.3 million to construct. "Option 2," which cuts about $2.4 million from the overall price, would cost more than $8.7 million to construct. Each version would cost $1.1 million to design.

Penny for Pinellas sales taxes will pay for the station.

Mike Brassfield can be reached at brassfield@tampabay.com or (727) 445-4151. To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.

Clearwater looks to build cheaper downtown fire station 11/13/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 13, 2012 7:43pm]
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