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New Fort Smith, Van Buren fire station per square foot costs nearly equal

story by Ryan Saylor
rsaylor@thecitywire.com

Two fire stations built and paid for using sales tax proceeds in Fort Smith and Van Buren came in at nearly the same price per square feet, with the Fort Smith fire chief noting the use of a construction manager for savings on the city's newest firehouse.

The city of Fort Smith most recently completed construction of station 11 at Chaffee Crossing on Feb. 24, 2014, at a cost of $3.18 million, according to figures provided by city Communications Manager Tracy Winchell and Fire Chief Mike Richards.

The costs included in the total are $2.733 million for construction, $177,023 for architecture and engineering work, as well as printing of plan documents and a state review of the project, and $3.941.15 in legal fees paid to the Daily and Woods Law Firm.

The facility is 12,560 square feet, which breaks the cost down to $253.17 per square foot. The total cost of the fire station is 3.7%, or $158,617, below original estimates, according to a memo Richards wrote to the Fort Smith Board of Directors in April following completion of construction.

"This savings was made possible by the decision to use the Construction management method of delivery," he wrote. "The Construction Management method of delivery allows value engineering and planning on the front end of the project thereby potentially saving the owner money at the end of the project. This method proved very successful and resulted in very few issues throughout the project.”

In all, the city paid a construction management fee of $179,500 to Beshears Construction. The company also served as the general contractor on the project.

While the final figures for Fort Smith's newest fire station came in 3.7% below estimates, the latest addition to the Van Buren Fire Department has come in slightly above budget but still on par with Fort Smith's price per square foot. According to Van Buren Mayor Bob Freeman, fire house number four, which was opened July 25, came in $132,624 over budget for a final total of $2.603 million. For the 10,310 square foot building, the price breaks down to $252.44 per square foot.

Van Buren did the same as its southern neighbor and hired a construction management firm to oversee the project and enlisted a three rounds of value engineering on the project. What hiked the price, the mayor said, was the decision made to have Crawford Construction install a new water line as part of the project.

"Where the fire station location was (on Northridge Drive), the water line wasn't extended down. So we went ahead and had Crawford Construction extend it instead of (contracting) it separately," Freeman explained.

While soil and environmental tests were completed before construction began, he said it also became apparent during construction of the new fire station that additional fill dirt was needed at the site since it would be housing heavy fire apparatus. An additional expense included fire hydrants at the urging of Fire Chief Jerry McAdoo, Freeman said.

While Van Buren and Fort Smith saw different financial results from the use of a construction manager for completion of the cities' respective fire stations, Freeman said Van Buren's overage is no different than running into unexpected costs in the construction of a home.

"Anybody who has ever built a house or done anything (like that) knows that once you get into it, you say, 'What we should have done is this,' and you make the change and move on. The base contract, as far as that was concerned, actually came in about $13,000 under what the base was and what the cost estimate was. These were just some changes we added to it while we were doing it.”

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Final payment on the Van Buren fire house was to take place following approval of a resolution at Monday's (Aug. 18) city council meeting, but Freeman tabled the resolution due to a concern regarding condensation build up in the lighting at the new fire house.

"The chief told me Monday morning that we have some moisture condensation in some light fixtures. … We felt the condensation issue had to do with cold air from the ventilation system. So we have Crawford Construction look at it. Right now, it looks like a thermostat setting. But I decided to table it. As of yesterday, it was getting resolved.”

Both fire houses were built following the passage of sales taxes. Following the additions, Fort Smith now has 11 fire stations and Van Buren has four.

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