How long can the city’s 110-year-old city fire station, built for horses and horse-drawn firefighting apparatus, continue to serve the needs of a modern fire department that uses heavy equipment?
Fire Chief Jim Parrish says he’s not an engineer, and can’t make that determination, but notes that the amount of money spent during the past seven years trying to maintain the station on Second Street SE “totals in the ballpark of $200,000.”
In February 2014, Law Director Marvin Fete informed City Council that the fire station has “significant liability issues.”
At that time, he gave council members a copy of a letter he wrote to Parrish, who had asked him to review various reports for the purposes of assessing the city’s legal liability as it pertains to structural conditions of the fire station on Second Street SE.
Adding to the fire station’s past problems of deterioration, it now has “a beam that is twisted,” Parrish said.
The 12-inch beam that is twisting, he added, holds up the pilaster that holds up the fire station’s second floor, which houses firefighters and fire department offices.
Parrish said consulting engineers are scheduled to look at the beam, take photographs and compare them to previous photos. He adds that every time they see something different, or if something fails, “we do our best to take care of it.”
The chief also said that over the past winter one of the two main sanitary sewers in the building broke off at the floor behind the wall that has had previous structural problems. He said a plumbing contractor came in, and normally would dig down behind the wall and fix the problem.
“But due to the condition of the wall now, the engineer put them (the plumbing contractor) on notice that if you dig into that wall, you’re going to be responsible for whatever happens,” Parrish said.
The chief notes that the search for a new fire station site began in earnest in 2011 after it was determined that the current fire station has significant structural issues.
At that time, Safety Director Greg Popham reported that the fire station’s main floor had been fixed with a temporary support wall installed under floor joists after it was discovered that one of the floor’s primary support I-beams was severely rusted. That allowed the floor to sag when a truck was driven in or out of the fire station.
“Part of the problem with the building, the engineers are telling us, is not only the weight we have on it, but the live load — a moving load — that we have on it,” Parrish said. He notes that when the doors go up, a 43,000-pound truck goes in and out.
Mayor Dave Johnson said that when a new fire station is built, the old one still will be useful for many years for other purposes without such loads. One of its possible uses might be for storage of city records.
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