Reduction coming to planned fire station

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Market conditions are prompting changes to the new fire station planned for McCordsville, including a reduction from three apparatus bays to two.

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McCORDSVILLE — Growing inflation and supply chain challenges are reducing the size and scope of McCordsville’s new fire station.

Officials remain confident the facility will still be effective at helping to keep the community safe, however.

Vernon Township is planning the new station near the southwest corner of Mt. Comfort Road and CR 900N. Members of the project team, including from Indianapolis-based Garmong Construction Services, presented a plan in March estimated at over $6.5 million.

“Since then I think we’ve all seen what inflation has done across the board and availability of materials,” said Tony Anderson, project executive with Garmong Construction Services, at a joint Vernon Township Advisory Board-township fire protection territory board meeting earlier this month.

During the project’s bid process in April and May, the team learned from the market that the cost of the fire station they were planning was 10% to 15% higher than what they originally budgeted. That led to efforts to find cuts to the plan in order to stay within the debt the Vernon Township Fire Protection Territory Board agreed to take on for the endeavor last year.

Working with township and township fire department officials, the team identified multiple ways to save, the biggest of which being exterior changes, including a switch from red brick to a less expensive brown; as well as a reduction from three vehicle bays to two.

“When we’re talking about 10 to 15% cost savings, you can’t do that just in material changes,” said Indianapolis-based Delv Design partner Jamison Sills, who’s also working on the fire station. “You have to start looking at square-footage.”

Former Vernon Township Fire Chief Chad Abel commented on the impact the bay reduction would have on apparatus storage before announcing his resignation. It would depend on the combination of vehicles, he continued, adding a fire engine and ambulance would be able to fit in one bay back-to-back. The Vernon Township Fire Department currently does not have an aerial truck, but if and when it does, it would take up an entire bay with enough room for a battalion chief’s SUV, Abel also said.

Adding on a third bay in the future is unlikely; Anderson described it as impractically expensive.

Abel noted the new plan still allows for the fire station to have 10 bunks, which maintains the facility’s ability to fully staff a fire engine, ladder truck and ambulance.

“With that being said, it’s a minimal impact if you consider it in that light,” he said.

Greg Brewer, a McCordsville Town Council member who serves on the fire protection territory board, said the new plan still accomplishes the goal of another fire station and cutting down on response times in the area.

“It’s also to show the people that the community is evolving from a sleepy bedroom community to a fully functioning fire department,” Brewer said.

The township advisory board approved the change to the scope of work for the new fire station and a guaranteed maximum price of $6.8 million, keeping it within the original bond amount.

“So that shifts some of that risk to Garmong,” said Cam Starnes, a lawyer with Taft’s Indianapolis office assisting the township with the project. He added that while change orders are disfavored in the structure of the agreement the construction firm has with the township, the builder can still seek them should they experience cost overruns.

Anderson said until Garmong is under agreement with its vendors for the project, there will continue to be risk, but that he and his colleagues have been keeping in close contact with them on pricing.

“Through the combined efforts of our team, we have been able to limit the surprises to a handful of things that we’re seeing across the industry,” Anderson said.

He added the company is working to overcome a nationwide shortage on roofing materials by securing material in stock from a roofing vendor and storing it until it’s needed.

While the township advisory board’s vote on the new plan was unanimous, board member Gary Sharrett said more needs to be done to ensure adequate fire protection and emergency medical services in McCordsville. He noted the new station will be north of the railroad tracks that divide the town, leading to concerns over trains holding up first responders on their way to an emergency south of the tracks. The Vernon Township Fire Department has a station south of the tracks, but it’s several miles away in Fortville. The department also stations firefighters in a modular home on the grounds of a fire station that lacks lodging owned by the McCordsville Volunteer Fire Department that’s south of the tracks. Sharrett said he hopes that station will remain operational.

“I’m not against building this,” he said of the new McCordsville station, “but we’re not solving the problem.”

Fortville Town Council approved the modifications to the scope of work for the fire station Monday night and McCordsville Town Council is slated to review them next month.

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