The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

Bill Johnson for Alaska House

By STEVEN WEBER
Valdez Star 

New fire station plans are moving forward after long delay

What to do with current location a big question for city council

 

September 19, 2018



Valdez voters may hold the future of a new fire station in their hands.

City officials gathered Thursday night for a work session to discuss plans – and location – for a new fire station. The move comes two years after a new fire station was named a top city priority after mold was found to be contaminating portions of current facility, which is housed in the older section of city hall.

A bond issue to pay for a new facility could come to voters in the May 2019 election. If passed, ground could be broken as early as spring 2020.

The proposed location is on Hazelet Avenue between West Klutina Street and West Pioneer Drive in the vicinity of the Skate Park on land that is already owned by the city.

Movement for a new fire station was re-energized this past summer after plans stalled when land was purchased by the city but later found too expensive to develop.

On August 22, the City Council voted to select the site and scheduled a work session for August 28.

Council did not gavel in for that work session for lack of a quorum.

Council members Dennis Fleming, Lon Needles and Darren Reese failed to show up for the meeting; Council member Jim Shirrell had already informed council he would not be in town when the meeting was scheduled a week earlier. With only the mayor and two council members present, a meeting could not be called to order.

The work session was re-scheduled for last Thursday. Fleming, Needles, and Reese were also absent from this work session but three council members and the mayor, Jeremy O’Neil, were on hand to discuss the location.

A crucial item that was brought up during the work session asked: What will the city do with the space the department now calls home?

“If we are going to bond this, let’s bond the whole package,” Shirrell said.

What he was referring to was the idea of bonding a new fire station and work on the old section of city hall, where the fire department now calls home, that needs remediation or replacement.

“A lot of people are against a large expenditure for a fire hall,” Shirrell said. “We need a big picture of the whole thing. Otherwise further concerns come up. We need to give enough of a picture so when we roll this out, there isn’t something that creates doubt.”

The mayor wanted to make sure the department’s need drives the conversation – and work.

“We need to make sure the new fire department is the top priority.” O’Neil said. “I don’t want to see us getting bogged down.”

Chris Moulton brought up an idea that might go well with Shirrell’s vision.

“Why can’t the old fire station be renovated into office space?” Moulton said. “We could have one singular campus for the city.”

This would be beneficial for parts of the city’s departments that have been broken up to different locations outside of city hall, including to the Airport.

Moulton also brought up another point during the meeting when Shirrell asked if the plans for the new Fire Station could be on the city’s website.

“Every project should be on the website,” Moulton said.

Ron Ruff also provided words that need to be well understood as future plans are made.

“The future station is a big deal to a lot of people,” Ruff said, “but not to others.”

Due to the long time-line to build a new fire station, repairs on the old fire station are still being completed, including work on the roof and plans to remediate the black mold in the decontamination room and repairs to the HVAC system.

O’Neil recommended that the fire chief, Tracy Raynor, bring forth ways to address workplace hazard issues to council.

The Fire Station is open to tours everyday from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. according to the city’s website.

 

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