May 18, 2016
By: Katie Egan

 

Naples City Council member Sam Saad said Monday during a city council workshop that the Naples Fire and Rescue station behind City Hall “isn’t just a facility we can keep ‘band-aiding’ together.”

And after six years of discussions, the city will no longer have to. The Band-Aid can finally be ripped off.

The 20-year-old station is getting a $5 million rebuild.

Reports citing malfunctioning air conditioning units, building mold, a lack of space and no gender separation in sleeping quarters, say it’s about time.

The city began allocating $500,000 for the station’s makeover after Steve McInerny, the former fire chief, requested a new building in 2010.

According to the city’s finance department, with $2.5 million earmarked in savings, the city would still need to spend another $2.5 million on the new station.

Saad said McInerny’s lack of public trust played a role in council delaying the project.

Interim fire chief, Pete DiMaria, knows what the community needs, Saad said, and he offers the economic justifications to make those needs a reality.

“As opposed to just wanting it to look pretty,” Saad said.

McInerny was fired in March after the fire union said he misled the public about the department. The council rejected his budget requests, reports say, because he wasn’t upfront about the department’s facility and equipment needs.

According to the report, McInerny would often label incidents as fires when there was no hint of a flame.

The project was initially a nearly $3 million build out, Saad said, but eventually the number climbed to $4 million.

“He couldn’t get it done,” Saad said. “He couldn’t build it for what he was telling us he could build it for.”

After McInerny requested a rebuild in 2010, the council agreed to spend $150,000 to renovate the station. Then during last year’s budget talks, the council delayed funding the rebuild until fiscal year 2018.

On Monday, council members voted to renovate the 9,100 square foot structure, at 835 Eighth Ave. S., for $5 million. Though they can’t approve a budget during the Monday workshops, they did vote to finalize the design.

DiMaria hopes to begin construction in October 2017 and finish the 13,778-square-foot building as early as May 2019.

He presented three possible options for the new station, but council members were divided on whether or not to choose a pricier building that included space for administration staff.

Ultimately, they chose to build a new station at the existing location.

Administration will continue to be housed at the department’s headquarters at Riverside Circle.

DeMaria, however, said it’s common for administration to be located at fire and rescue headquarters.

“We have operated as a sub station to the area for a long time,” he said. “We’re capable of acting that way.”

But, he said: “the preferred option would be to put everyone together.”

Mayor Bill Barnett gave the final consensus Monday saying he chose option seven to avoid a deadlock between council members who either wanted to wait to build the station, citing other projects like Baker Park; or were at odds over whether or not to house administration in the same building and pay more money.

“Let’s get it built,” he said.

“It doesn’t help with administration. But it’s not that far away.”

Sizzling plans for Fire-Rescue department

City council discussed the new station as part of the five-year Capital Improvement Plan Monday and talked about a slew of other improvements for the city’s Fire-Rescue department.

Two fire trucks will be refurbished, and reports say the $210,000 project will postpone new purchases for the next five to seven years.

Portable radio replacements would warrant $35,000 and a fiber optics system at fire station No. 3 will cost $25,000.

The fiber optics project will provide a direct hardware link back to the city’s network. Right now, fire station No. 3 relies on Comcast Internet.

As part of a five-year program, stations will get 10 new portable radios. According to a report, the new P25 technology will make the current stock of portable radios obsolete.

Having extra stock radios also means staff will be able to use them for special details, storms and have backups in the case of an emergency.

Fire station No. 2, which is in poor condition, will be renovated in the next four fiscal years. The proposed cost to refurbish the 977 26th Ave. N., building is $250,000.

Some parts of the station were hot and muggy, DiMaria said, while others were cool and comfortable.

The five industrial air conditioning units, he told council members, all tend to compete with each other, causing expenses to go up.

“I think we can benefit from a long-term solution to the problem,” DiMaria said, adding that staff can’t charge their phones and copy something without breaking the circuit breakers.

“As I was looking at this,” Saad said. “I thought it would be really ironic if the fire station burns down.”

He later asked: “How are we going to recruit and retain really good talent in these conditions?”

 

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