$1 Million in ‘Cosmetic’ Items Trimmed From Wheeling Fire Department Headquarters Project
photo by: Photo by Eric Ayres
WHEELING — Members of Wheeling City Council met briefly Monday to hear a first reading of an ordinance to enter into a $9 million contract for construction of the city’s new fire department headquarters.
The action comes after city leaders announced last week that bids for the long-awaited project came in higher than expected. Since then, city officials had been working with the low bidder and the project engineer — M&G Architects and Engineers of Wheeling — to trim about $1 million in construction costs off of the job to keep it within budget.
A second and final reading on the ordinance is expected to follow a vote to approve the contract during the next city council meeting on May 17. The ordinance will authorize Wheeling City Manager Robert Herron to spend $9 million with PCS &build of Cleveland as the general contractor for the new headquarters, which is expected to be built on property the city acquired last year along 17th Street in East Wheeling.
Wheeling Fire Chief Jim Blazier on Monday said a number of cosmetic tweaks and other adjustments were made that will ultimately save money without changing the size of the building or any of its intended purposes.
“The functionality of the building is going to remain the same,” Blazier said.
“The low bid was $10 million,” Herron added. “Various things were deducted off, and we were able to drop that down to $9 million with deductions that the fire department has been involved in and is OK with.”
Among the cost-saving tweaks were elimination of a number of windows, including six exterior windows, five exterior windows in the apparatus bay where the fire trucks will be kept and some windows along the lower level of the building. A change in the size of precast concrete panels on the exterior of the building will also save a significant amount of money.
“We changed the panel size from 12-inch panels to 8-inch panels,” Herron said.
Blazier noted that the panels will not be quite as thick as the original specifications had been in the original designs. The adjustment to the panel size will reflect a $267,000 savings.
Adjustments will also see urinals removed from the designs in the shower room and an emergency generator on the site will be dropped from one that could continue powering everything in the building – including the air conditioning units – to one that only powers heat and light in the event of an outage, a downgrade that will save $50,000.
One major savings will come from the elimination of a tornado storm shelter area that had been built into the original design, which was a suggested addition but not a requirement for the facility. That design change will save $311,000.
“The size of the building — the square footage in the building and the amenities of the building — has not been compromised,” Herron said. “It’s still a 26,000-square-foot building.”
Money from the City Service Fee will be used to repay funds from a bond package that will be used for the construction. When city council approved the bond ordinance last year, the language allowed for up to $9 million in financing for the project. That funding amount had provided a cushion well over the engineer’s estimate of just under $7.8 million.
However, officials noted that construction costs have been elevated in the midst of ongoing supply chain issues for materials and a volatile national economy.
Herron said time was of the essence because the city secured a favorable financing package from the bank, but that has a deadline, as does the window on accepting a bid. Since the “clock is ticking” on the financing and the bid proposal, city leaders had to find ways to whittle the project down to one that was within budget without compromising the state-of-the-art fire department that officials intend to build.
Much like the current construction of the new Wheeling Police Department headquarters in Center Wheeling, expenses associated with the fire department headquarter’s new furnishings, wiring, technology equipment and other costs are not being included in the overall cost of construction, Herron noted.
Existing vacant structures were recently demolished by Edgco Inc. of Lansing and are being removed from the 17th Street property, where site preparation will be followed by construction soon after if the contract is approved by council on May 17. Herron noted that the 30-day bid hold and the deadline to pull the trigger on the financing package fall on the next day, May 18.
Another adjustment to save money on the project involves extending the construction period beyond the original one-year window.
“In order to get the price down, we had to extend it to 18 months,” Herron said, noting that the delay will not be an issue for the fire department. “It’s going to be a really nice project.”
PCS &build submitted what was considered the lowest, best bid for the project with its original proposal of $10 million. Grae-Con Construction had submitted a bid of $9,860,000, but officials said their bid included a technical error and was not accepted. Other contractors and their bids for the fire department headquarters construction job included a bid from Coliainni Construction for $10,375,000, one from the Hudson Group of $10,388,000 and another from Rycon Construction for $10,267,000.