City seeks consultant for fire facility study




Garden City officials feel good about a request for qualifications issued this week designed to find an experienced consultant to perform a fire facilities study that will help guide future fire department planning.

"It's open enough to come in and look at the community from a fresh perspective, but it's still targeted enough that it will get down to the nuts and bolts of what the study would do, and that's really to help reconstitute a path for the fire department moving forward on what we would need in the way of facilities, manpower, equipment and those sorts of things," City Manager Matt Allen said.

The request for qualifications was prepared in response to a discussion of future facility goals. Two weeks ago, the City Commission discussed priorities for future fire station projects. Two projects have been identified as commission goals: a remodel of the central fire station downtown, and construction of a third fire station on the city's east side that has been talked about for years as the city continues to grow in that direction.

A majority of the commission felt it made sense to hire a third party to examine facility needs and help determine the most ideal ways for the city to invest its resources, instead of trying to choose between the two potential projects.

The last time the city took a look at fire services needs was an in-house study performed in the late 1990s. Allen said the community's growth has been different since then, noting that the ConAgra fire "pretty much shelved any plans" suggested by that study. The city's growth and recovery since that fire also show the need for an updated study.

Chief Allen Shelton said the study will look at a variety of needs, including apparatus, manpower, and response areas for the existing two stations, as well as the anticipated need for a possible new third fire station.

At the main station, Shelton said the department is looking to build an addition that would house new living quarters. The station was built in 1982. A meeting room was remodeled in the past for a dormitory area but more space is needed, he said.

The addition would allow the dormitory space to be turned into administrative office space for the fire marshall, three battalion chiefs, Shelton's office and an administrative assistant.

"For all the services we provide in the community and work along with inspections, we do have a need for more room, especially for the fire marshall so he can work more directly with the inspection department," Shelton said.

Fifteen years ago, the city purchased about six acres of land at the corner of Jennie Barker Road and Schulman Avenue for a proposed third station, Shelton said. But after so much time as passed, the consultant will be asked to make sure it's still the right location.

"Really, we've got two projects. One is an add-on to the main station, and the other is to start looking at a third station," Shelton said. "Either project, if we decided today to go ahead with it, it's probably going to be two years out from the time we actually get everything drawn up, bid and get construction done. It's not an overnight process."

Allen said the urban area around Garden City also will be considered by the consultant, and the role the department plays in responding to calls and grass fires outside the city.

"We are really the primary response agency for all of Finney County," Allen said. "We may be able to pull off the scene when a volunteer group shows up that has units in that area, but we're the primary response agency for the entire county. This type of study will take that into account and scale it accordingly."

The city's deadline for proposals is May 23. Consultant selection criteria will include experience with similar studies, a list of staff proposed for the project, references, and any other pertinent information.

A committee will choose a short list to interview from among the firms that respond. The commission could consider accepting a proposal as early as June 3.

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