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New Kaslo fire hall nears end of bumpy first phase
Kaslo and the Regional District of Central Kootenay are hoping for a smoother ride during the second phase of construction on the village’s new fire hall.
Although the building is on time and on budget, some on council fear it will still cost more than it should have.
Councillor Rob Lang says he supported the project — and campaigned for it during a referendum last May — based on the belief it would cost far less than the projected $1.2 million.
“I’m sure it will be a fantastic structure. It’s just going to come in at a price tag that’s more than we had been led to believe,” he said in an interview. “I twisted arms and called all my friends and said ‘You have to get behind this.’ Now I feel like I got into a bad marriage.”
About two-thirds of Kaslo voters approved taking out a loan to build the new hall and converting their fire department into a regional district service.
The regional district, which is managing the project, awarded the phase one contract to Encan Construction of Kelowna with the low bid of $588,000. Work began in November and the new hall is expected to reach lock-up stage by March 7.
While Lang has no issue with the contractor, he thinks the tender documents contained some unnecessary extras. Following the referendum, a group of locals in the construction industry tried to find ways to save money but Lang says only one of their ideas was adopted.
Regional fire chief Terry Swan told the Star he believes “misinterpretation and miscommunication” are at the root of the issue that began with a visit to a fire hall in Sorrento which was built in part with donated lumber and volunteer labour.
“I think there was some expectation those things were going to happen here, yet I made it clear at town hall meetings and in presentations to council that I couldn’t make promises on behalf of the community,” he said.
Swan said if he receives “safe, sound, and doable” proposals, they can be incorporated into the project, otherwise he has to put the work out for bids. He expects there will be opportunities for volunteers in the project’s second phase, although he has to be careful about safety.
“I’m not prepared to have people volunteering to wire that building unless they’re electrical contractors. But if a group said ‘We’d like to paint the inside,’ I’d be more than happy to look at it.”
He hoped improved communication would lead to “a smoother ride” on phase two and insisted the project should still come in under budget.
Lang agrees the next phase — which will see requests for quotes issued for plumbing, wiring, insulation, and drywall — should present more chances for residents to pitch in and help save money, but doesn’t think the reductions will be as dramatic as he once hoped.
He said he isn’t recommending the village take any further action and doesn’t intend to criticize the project further. “I know the fire department is excited and I’m sure they’ll be happy to be in the facility. Twenty years down the road, nobody will be talking about the cost.”
The existing fire hall, built in the 1970s adjacent to the historic city hall, doesn’t meet current building standards. The new fire hall is going up next to the arena.