New Fire Department: Onward and Forward

Demolition week began on the old Branford Public Works Department building Monday morning; the very first phases of new beginnings for the Fire Department Head Quarters are underway.

Chief Jack Ahern was all smiles yesterday as the first tangible signs of his new firehouse were realized. Unbothered by the sounds of twisted metal being removed from the former , Ahern could not stop commenting about his excitement that the project was finally underway.

Back in January, just after the Fire Department to live stream the building project of the new firehouse 24-7, Ahern had hoped the demolition of the new firehouse would begin. Bad weather and other factors held the crew up and though the temperature was still chilling yesterday morning, the removal of the metal building started at 7 a.m.

For the next week, Standard Demolition Services will be removing the metal buildings on site and separating the materials for recycling. In fact, Town Engineer, Janice Plaziak shared that the value of the removed metal is somewhere near $15,000 to $20,000 (the cost of demolition crew’s services are adjusted to reflect the amount of money they will make with recycling the removed material).

Though the large claw of the machine scooping away the old Public Works Department was impressive, a quiet demolition of sorts has been going on for the past week in the brick building next to the firehouse. Ahern explains that abatement of this brick building to remove PCBs has been going on since last week. PCB is a chemical compound that was used in binding seems of the brick structure; in order for the building to come down the contaminated bricks have to be removed.

In addition to the brick building’s removal, the old Public Works salt shed will also be going; Ahern shared that he and the Public Works Department are just waiting to see if it snows again before the shed can be removed for good (learn more about the needs of the new Public Works Facility ).

In September of 2010, $12.5 million was approved for bonding the new 32,000-sqaure-foot fire headquarters. In January, bid packages were received and opened for the 19 available jobs– of those, four were set out to bid again with the hopes of getting a lower price, said Ahern and Plaziak. With any construction job, bid prices are tricky and the price of the removal of as many as four underground tanks has upped the cost of the project becoming "a big unknown" according to Plaziak.

The buried tanks contain or have contained gasoline and oil, said Plaziak with additional water/oil separators underground as well. Due to the underground tanks, Plaziak shared that some of the green initiatives the town hoped to implement in the new building will have to take a back seat for now. The removal of the gray water system as well as photovoltaic solar panels for the new fire headquarters’ roof will take the project out of Silver LEED certification.

“It was nice to have the LEED certification,” said Plaziak, “but it was an area we could have some significant savings.”

Though the PV panels, which are estimated to cost $150,000, have been removed from the construction list, Ahern said the connections for the equipment are still included in the price and there’s a very strong possibility that the panels will be added back. “When the bids first came in,” said Ahern, “we realized that we had to make choices; start removing things from the building or ask for more money.”

While no more money is being requested and a few building initiatives have been put on the chopping block, Ahern is confident that the Guaranteed Maximum Price that comes back next week from Turner Construction, who is running the job, will fall well within the bonded amount.

Once Turner provides the GMP, all bid packages will be approved– three of which will most likely be given to Branford businesses or Branford residents who have a business elsewhere (A Secondino & Son (millwork), Colossale Concrete (site work) and Massey Glass (windows)).

Getting the project moving for Ahern is not just a positive thing for his hopes of a new facility, but also for the price points, he said, as the cost of oil and steel continue to rise.

After the GMP is set and demolition finishes, Ahern said there will be a ceremonial ground breaking in mid to late April and then it’s onward and forward for the future of the Branford Fire Department who hopes to be in their new headquarters by May of 2012.



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