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Costs overruns on fire stations stump council

Medford City Council had a difficult time Thursday stomaching the idea of cutting out one of three new fire stations after being confronted with a $3.4 million shortfall.

Councilors discovered that only enough money was available to build two new stations.

“Then we’re really up the creek,” Mayor Gary Wheeler said.

Councilors were confronted with various options to deal with the shortfall, including scaling back the design on the three stations to save about $1.5 million, and then going out to bid again on all the fire stations while risking getting even higher bids. Another option supported by Wheeler was to build only two of the stations.

The council couldn’t agree on going with just two, but instead decided to continue working with Adroit Construction of Ashland and Ogden Roemer Wilkerson Architecture of Medford to come up with more ideas to bring down costs over the next two weeks. By Oct. 1, the council hopes to come to consensus on what to do about the stations.

Earlier this month, the council discovered the city was up to $6 million short on paying for construction of the new police station and three new fire stations. The police station’s shortfall was pared back from $1.6 million to just under $1 million in the last two weeks. An almost $1 million facade to improve the look of the police station parking garage has also been dropped. 

Many of the councilors were not happy with the new cost-cutting designs of the fire stations, which featured less-expensive gable roofs, concrete lap siding instead of brick and cutting out some of the automatic roll-up doors.

Other than the mayor, most councilors expressed a preference for a flat-roof design rather than the gable design. They also objected to cutting too many corners and potentially giving firefighters inferior buildings.

“I think I’d rather drive off the lot with three Cadillacs rather than three Kias,” Councilor Clay Bernson said.

Wheeler said his preference would be to build just fire stations 2 and 4, tabling Fire Station 3 at the roundabout on Siskiyou Boulevard. Fire Station 2, located at the corner of Lincoln and Eighth streets in west Medford, is considered the most outdated. Fire Station 4 on Table Rock Road is used for training firefighters.

The council generally agreed that the city should put most of its efforts into Fire Station 2 until it got more information about other alternatives for fire stations 3 and 4.

The total cost to build the fire stations is now estimated at $14 million, but after architecture, engineering, permits and other costs, the city has $9.6 million for actual construction.

Tom Walker with Adroit Construction said Fire Station 2 would cost $3.7 million to build, Fire Station 3 would be $3.8 million and Fire Station 4 would cost almost $4 million. The prices are based on bids the city has received that will be good until Oct. 2.

As a result, fire stations 2 and 4 would use up almost $8 million, leaving a shortfall for Fire Station 3.

“Maybe we just got too ambitious,” Councilor Daniel Bunn said.

Councilor Tim Jackle said he supported forgetting about the bids, reworking the designs and then putting each of the projects out to bid.

“The last thing I’m worried about is letting these bids go,” he said.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com. Follow him on www.twitter.com/reporterdm.