The projected cost of East Aurora’s proposed new fire hall on Center Street has been pared to about $6.6 million, after committee members shaved about $1 million from the $7.6 million preliminary estimate that came in much higher than village officials thought.
“We said, ‘Whoa, that’s a little more than we thought.’ We wanted to know what jumped the cost,” said Daniel Castle, chairman of the Fire Hall Design Committee, during a project update Monday before the Village Board. “We’re still finalizing some costs.”
Initially, a new fire hall was predicted to cost between $5 million and $5.3 million, but Castle said he learned that estimate came from information projected in 2006 through a Homeland Security grant.
“In my mind, we’re right where we should be. But we’re still taking a hard look at it,” Castle said, noting that village consultants on the project have been asked to see if there are any other potential cost reductions. “My sense is the cost will come down a little bit more.”
To help rein in costs, the building’s square footage has been shrunk. That meant reducing the depth of truck bays, making corridors narrower and repositioning a day room. The exterior stone also is being looked at.
Castle said the committee wants the new fire hall to be acceptable to residents, functional to the fire department and affordable for the community.
“This is a fire hall for the next 50 years,” he said. The current one on Oakwood Avenue was built in 1954.
Third-generation firefighter Tom Bender agreed. “The last time we made a fire hall, we made it small,” he said. “Cutting the money now is not a good idea, because you’ll have to add more in five years.”
Trustee Kevin Biggs said he’s talked with some residents who are concerned about the cost of the fire hall. “A lot of people I talk to are on fixed incomes. There’s more than just close neighbors that this fire hall impacts,” he said.
Fire Chief Roger LeBlanc acknowledged there is more committee work to be done. “But I’m sure we’ll come up with a building that everyone will be happy with and proud of,” he said.
In a related development, Aurora Councilman Jeffrey Harris, who is on the fire hall committee but has not been able to attend meetings because of his work schedule, said Tuesday he is considering resigning his committee position.
“It has absolutely nothing to do with what I said [last week],” Harris said. He was referring to his comments last week during a Town Board meeting, when he disclosed the preliminary estimate of the fire hall had risen. Several village trustees said they had not known that until a story appeared in The Buffalo News with the preliminary estimate. Some village officials, particularly Mayor Allan Kasprzak, were furious that Harris discussed it publicly when he has not been at committee meetings.
Tuesday, Harris said the figures were known in the community, and he wanted the message out that the cost would come down. “The mission of the fire department isn’t to be the Roycroft, but to save lives,” he said.
A more complete presentation on the fire hall is expected April 15 before the Village Board.