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Jacksonville fire hall rebuild resumes

Jacksonville officials are nearly ready to solicit bids to rebuild the town’s 1950s fire station after pausing in spring due to the high costs of materials and a shortage of subcontractors to perform the work.

A second story will be added to the current building, and it will be modernized. The structure is not deemed to be safe in the event of an earthquake.

Business Oregon awarded a $1.34 million grant in May 2020 for seismic reinforcement of the fire hall. Another $1 million is slated to come from the city’s urban renewal agency. Tentative plans announced last year had projected the work to begin in March with completion by February 2022.

“When we started looking at the numbers, first of all materials were way high. Then your subcontractors were so busy,” said City Administrator Jeff Alvis. “I think a lot of it was due in part to the pandemic.”

Plans for the remodel work, prepared by ZCS Engineering and Architecture, have been approved but with conditions attached. Those conditions will need to be incorporated into plans before bid requests can be sent to subcontractors.

“We had to change a few things. Hopefully we are ready to roll (on bids) within the next couple of weeks,” said Alvis.

If bids are successful, temporary quarters for the Fire Department are already in place at the city’s Public Works yard, said Fire Chief Wayne Painter.

A modular unit has been moved to the site to serve as quarters for the fire crews and already has all utilities hooked up. A building at the Public Works site that will house the fire engines has been upgraded with the installation of electric services and sheet rock.

“Crews and equipment still occupy the fire hall, which has a number of holes created in it for site and structure testing purposes,” said Painter.

Ground-penetrating radar was brought in to determine whether there were any old mine shafts under the building. During the Great Depression in the 1930s, a number of mine shafts were created throughout the city as residents dug into backyards and tunneled outward looking for gold. In the following decades, city streets and properties had holes open up due to the shafts.

An archaeologist was present when boring tests were done at the fire hall because the site is considered an historic area, said Painter. No hazardous materials that would require mitigation were discovered during the process, he said.

Besides checking the ground, holes were bored into the station’s block walls to determine whether there was rebar or concrete materials present. The footings were also checked.

“All this investigation was to determine how it was all put together. I was pretty impressed with how thorough it was,” said Painter. The structure is located on C Street between North Third and Fourth streets. The current brick and stone exterior will be retained.

S&B James Construction had already been selected as the general contractor in a competitive bidding process under a construction manager/general contractor arrangement, said Matthew Crawford, an architectural designer with ZCS.

The process differs from the traditional bid methods with a general contractor brought in during the design phase, said Crawford. S&B James is working under a preconstruction agreement, and amendments will be created to cover additional work if the city accepts bids from subcontractors.

“They are involved during the design phase in preparing construction documents to help get a more efficient, cheaper price for the city,” said Crawford. The process is used for more involved projects with different components, such as the seismic reinforcement work required for the rebuild.

Bids will be solicited for electrical, plumbing, framing and other work. That will include pile installation to offer increased seismic support for the structure.

“It’s a project we have a little bit of time on,” said Alvis. The deadline for use of the state money is a year out, but extensions can be sought and such a request could be based on pandemic impacts, he said.

Once the remodel is completed, the station will become the city’s designated emergency operations center. New City Hall currently fills that role.

Painter is applying for a grant that would fund purchase of a generator for the center so that it would have power at all times during an emergency. The remodeled building will be wired for installation of a generator.

Reach Ashland freelance writer Tony Boom at tboomwriter@gmail.com.