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Decatur receives 4 bids on building fire stations
Apparent lowest bid slid through stuck elevator doors

By Chris Paschenko 340-2442

An apparent winning bid to build three fire stations in Decatur barely met Tuesday's deadline when the construction company's secretary slid the envelop through malfunctioning elevator doors.

The elevator temporarily trapped Kim Tham, of Building Construction Associates, as she tried to join the 2 p.m. meeting on the seventh floor of City Hall.

With the elevator doors only an inch or two apart, Fire Chief Charlie Johnson couldn't pry them open.

"I told her to push the door-close button," Johnson said. "But she said no," slid the bid envelope through the door "and said 'just take this over there.' "

Johnson took the bid and said, "someone should call the fire department." The doors opened about a minute later, and the meeting began with a chuckle.

Building Construction Associates was the apparent low bidder among four companies, offering to build three fire stations for $4,009,700 in 395 consecutive calendar days. Decatur Architect Fred Underwood said he would review the bids, ensure all requirements are met and make a recommendation to the city as early as Wednesday.

In February, the City Council rejected all the initial bids, which were at least $500,000 over the city's $3.9 million budget.

The council could approve construction with part of the $16.2 million general warrant sold last year to fund infrastructure and capital items. Gail Busbey, the city's chief financial officer, said the low bid appears to be within budget constraints.

Underwood said the city bid the projects again as a cost-saving measure. Underwood reduced the area of the buildings and simplified the roof design.

One important yet overlooked feature was added to the buildings, Underwood said.

"One thing we didn't count on was adding a fire sprinkler," he said. "It's possible the architect just missed it."

Johnson said he missed a change in the building code, which requires sprinkler systems.

A fourth of Decatur's firefighters have been living in mobile homes for 47 months, which are parked next to two stations that had potentially hazardous mold infestations spawned from leaking roofs.

"I have every confidence we'll get started and replace the sick buildings and trailers," Johnson said.

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