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FRIDAY, APRIL 20, 2007
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Decatur approves $4 million contract for 3 fire stations

By Chris Paschenko
chris@decaturdaily.com 340-2442

When heavy winds blow through Decatur next year, a fourth of Decatur's fire-fighting fleet won't have to leave their sleeping quarters to seek shelter from the storm.

The City Council on Thursday approved a $4 million contract with Building Construction Associates of Decatur to build three fire stations.

While on the job for the past 47 months, a fourth of Decatur's firefighters have lived in mobile homes parked next to two leaky, mold-filled fire stations.

Firefighters spend about a third of their life at work, enduring 24-hour shifts every third day.

Fred Underwood, a Decatur architect, reviewed the low bid and said it met all requirements, including a sprinkler system inadvertently omitted from the previous round of bids, which came in $400,000 over budget.

395-day window

The contract has a 395-day window for completion, and baring significant bouts of inclement weather, Decatur firefighters will move into their comfortable confines with permanent foundations possibly before the end of next spring.

Gail Busbey, the city's chief financial officer, said the city will fund construction costs as part of a $16.2 million general warrant sold last year.

"It was slightly over budget," Busbey said. "But we do have a sufficient contingency fund to cover the bid."

Fire Chief Charlie Johnson thanked everyone, including council members, Mayor
Don Kyle, Busbey and Underwood.

"It's been a very long roller-coaster ride," Johnson said. "I'd like to thank the firefighters, who have been in the trailers, for their patience. They knew this day would come when they would get buildings they'd be proud of."

Johnson said firefighter Terry Morris, a driver engineer, showed him the mold problem in March 2002.

Leaking roofs at two stations led to an infestation in the firefighters' living quarters.

The city parked mobile homes near the stations soon thereafter and worked to secure funding to replace the 50-year-old buildings.

Busbey said a land-purchase contract for a station on North Street Southeast was to be signed Thursday.

The city owns property for two other sites at Nelms Road Northwest and Herman Bailey Field near Fifth Avenue Southwest.

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