Augusta Fire Station to Cost Half Million More than Planned

The soil below the city-owned spot selected for a new fire station in north Augusta isn’t up to the task of bearing the weight of the new station and the heavy fire trucks that would be kept there.

Rather than abandon the lot and plans to build a station there within a year, city staff recommends spending about $500,000 to install structural steel pilings extending at least 60 feet down to provide a solid base for the fire station and the concrete floors that will bear the weight of water-filled firetrucks and ambulances.

City Manager William Bridgeo said there were no signs the soil wasn’t up to the task of supporting the weight of a fire station until the city had test borings done as part of the engineering for the site which revealed “soupy” clay soil.

“They did test pits where they went 10 feet down, and it’s soup,” Bridgeo said of the discovery of soil conditions at the site off Leighton Road across the street from its intersection with Anthony Avenue. “Then they went 20 feet down, still soup. Then they brought in the (drilling equipment) and went down 30, 40, 50, then 60 feet before they finally hit bedrock.”

If the building weren’t a fire station where heavy firetrucks will be kept, the pilings might not be needed, as the soil may be stable enough to support lighter-duty structures such as a home or one- or two-story office buildings, said Bridgeo and Ralph St. Pierre, finance director and assistant city manager. But engineers expressed concern the concrete floor of the new station could crack if built on the unstable soil with heavy firetrucks constantly rolling in and out of the station and across the floors.

“When you put a massive firetruck with a tankful of water rolling back and forth, back and forth, there’s a good chance you’re going to end up with cracks,” Bridgeo said. “And this building is being built for 75 to 100 years of use, so it’s prudent to get it right from the get-go.”

The projected budget of $3.6 million for the new station doesn’t include the recently discovered need for about $500,000 worth of pilings to stabilize the site.

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