A new fire hall for East Aurora probably would cost as much as $7.6 million.
And that expense, as well as the release of that estimate, is not sitting well with some village residents and village trustees.
Some are questioning how the estimate got to be so steep – about $2.3 million more than the $5.3 million that village and fire officials had initially indicated it would cost.
“I thought we were trying to keep this a very simple fire hall. Give me a reason for the $2 million increase. I don’t know what justifies it,” Trustee Patrick Shea said. “I have no fantasies that we’re going to come in at the same price we started out at. Costs go up. But $2 million on a $5 million project is humongous. That’s huge. I could see a 10 percent to 15 percent cost increase as being reasonable.”
Shea and others also said it’s important that the cost estimates be shared with the public.
“The more transparent you make it, the more the public is apt to embrace it,” he said.
Those involved in the design of the fire hall, planned for 33 Center St., insist they already have pared the preliminary estimate by about $1 million, bringing it to $6.65 million for now. Further committee review is continuing at a meeting Thursday, and the estimate could again change before it is finalized and presented to the public, possibly in mid-April.
When the higher estimate was recently disclosed, the design committee had already begun whittling the size of the fire hall to trim the cost, according to Village Trustee Libby Weberg, who is one of two trustees on the Fire Hall Design Committee.
After the first round of trims, the project stands at about $6.65 million, Weberg said.
“The costs had inflated. It just seems that a lot of little things added up,” Weberg said. “There are some things in there that are really nice, but are not absolutely ‘have to’s.’ It’s still going to be a very functional fire hall, and we should not have to compromise in the operation of the building or aesthetics.”
The building’s original 25,611-square-foot footprint has been reduced by making the depth of the truck bays shorter by about one foot. In addition, the size of the main interior corridor has been reduced, and a day room for the firefighters has been repositioned. There is also talk of selecting less expensive stone for the exterior.
Committee Chairman Daniel Castle will give an update on the fire hall during the board’s meeting at 7 p.m. Monday. Some trustees are looking for more detailed information on the cost estimate.
“I’m absolutely certain we’ll have a chitchat” about the cost, Trustee Randy West said, noting that he hadn’t heard the cost “had swelled” until after reading a Buffalo News story in which Aurora Councilman Jeffrey Harris talked openly during a Town Board meeting about the projected cost having risen to about $7.5 million.
“We’re at a very early design stage, and there’s lots of opportunities for cost reductions. We’ll keep a close eye on it,” West said. “I just hope it doesn’t become a political football and destroy the independence of the committee that is working on it.”
Fire Chief Roger LeBlanc said the Design Committee is still taking a hard look at the entire project.