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City gets update on capital projects

Proposed designs for a new fire station in North Suffolk will include plans for a fourth bay, but whether one gets built will be determined by the cost to put one in, and City Council’s will to pay for it.

During a recent update from Gerry Jones on Fire Station No. 11 in Harbour View off of Hampton Roads Parkway, the city’s director of capital projects told council that it would definitely have at least three bays and about 15,000 square feet of space to respond to increased growth and demand in the northern end of the city. Currently, the closest one is Fire and Rescue Station No. 5 on Bridge Road.

“It will be at least a three-bay station,” Jones said. “We’re going to plan for four, meaning we’ll situate it (and) site it so that we can expand it as time goes. As the need is there to expand it, we can do that.”

Jones said the fourth bay would possibly be included as an alternate bid item “if we can afford to do it within the current budget.”

Councilman Roger Fawcett said, however, that by the time construction would begin, it would be better to go ahead and build the fourth bay rather than try to add it later.

“We’re talking one bay, and it would be, I think, senseless, for us not to put the fourth bay in play while we have the brick and mortar going on the ground,” Fawcett said, “because if we try to come back and retrofit that building later, there could be issues down the line, could be issues with funding, could be issues with a lot of things. It may never get done, and with the expansion in that area, we need to have that capacity.”

Jones said the city would plan on a fourth bay and “more than likely” find out how much it would cost to build the new fire station with four bays.

RRMM Architects will be providing architectural and engineering design services. Jones said the city executed a contract for design services in September for $551,730, with the design work beginning Oct. 28 and scheduled to be finished by July 2021. At that point, Jones said the city would solicit construction bids, and that it is scheduled to be finished by fall 2022.

He noted that its cost, at $8.2 million, is $1.9 million more than originally projected.

It’s one of several capital projects with higher cost estimates.

A renovation of the 60-year-old, 2,300-square-foot Fire and Rescue Station No. 4 on Lake Kilby Road will need an extra $500,000 above its original $1.1 million cost projection, and a 7,214-square-foot fire department apparatus and quartermaster facility to go behind the King’s Fork Public Safety Center is set to cost about $2.5 million, more than $900,000 above its original projection.

The Bennett’s Creek Recreation Center, going on the former Army Reserve Center property, is set to cost nearly $5 million, more than $300,000 above its original projections. The city executed a $4.4 million contract for construction with C.W. Brinkley on that project, and construction began in September on the 15,795-square-foot facility and is scheduled to be done by October 2021.

Jones said the city had to wait for the Army to relocate out of the building, which the Army turned over to the city in June. The remodeled facility will have a game room, a computer lab, multipurpose and fitness rooms, a commercial kitchen, locker rooms and administrative support spaces. There will be no gymnasium in there because there is one at the Creekside Recreation Center at Creekside Elementary School.

Jones said that would be done by July 2021, but for now, it will not include paving and security fencing. The additional money needed for that would go toward those items if council approves it for the fiscal year 2022 Capital Improvements Program and Plan.

The increase in the price tags for those projects is due to these projects being delayed for several years.

“Many of these projects were put on the backburner when we did our two school projects,” Jones said, referring to the construction of Col. Fred Cherry Middle School and Florence Bowser Elementary School. “And a lot of these, the funding started prior to that, so … the original numbers that were put in the CIP, some of them are four, five, six years old.”

Interim City Manager Al Moor also noted the increases in the cost of steel.

Councilman Donald Goldberg said the city should incorporate a new downtown recreation center to go with the new library to be going in on city-acquired land about a block from City Hall.

“The kids in this area have been shortchanged ever since the Birdsong Gym was taken away,” Goldberg said, referring to when the gym was closed and then torn down in 2004.

Richmond-based Quinn Evans Architects, which will be designing the new library, held a pair of virtual community meetings this summer to get public input on what residents want in a new facility.

Last December, the city selected the company to design the new $23.3 million downtown library to replace the 14,500-square-foot Morgan Memorial Library. Jones said the city executed a nearly $1.8 million contract for design services in February, with that work scheduled to be done by spring 2022.

Moor noted that library funding has not been changed at this point from the previous year, which at the time did not have a recreation center component to it.

“What we’re looking at here is trying to understand how that rec (component) complements the library,” Moor said. “It’s really not part of the same building, but how it would slide into as we free up, maybe, where the Morgan (Memorial Library) is or where we free up something further down West Washington (Street), how they can come together and work together, but at this point, it hasn’t been envisioned to be part of the same building.”

Jones also outlined the status of other capital projects, including:

  • Commerce Street Parking Lot Expansion at 108 N. Commerce St.: The project would add 11 new spaces in the parking lot expansion and renovation while resurfacing and restriping it, upgrading the lighting and landscaping the entire parking lot. The project budget is $164,000.
  • Animal care facility parking lot expansion at 124 Forest Glen Drive: The project will see 15 new paved parking spaces, increasing parking spaces on site from 17 to 32. Construction wrapped up this month, Jones said. The project budget was $176,000, but Jones said the city saved $71,000 on the project by using its annual services contract instead of putting it out for bid. Waller Todd and Sadler Architects provided design services for $37,149 and Blair Brothers constructed the parking lot expansion for $67,000.
  • Parks and Recreation/Police Joint Operations Facility at 866 Carolina Road: a 23,467-square-foot facility for a Parks and Recreation operations center and a police department specialized equipment storage facility. Construction on the $4.7 million facility began in August and is scheduled to be finished in July 2021.