Our Town with William Kelly: Renovation of historic fire station moving on track

William Kelly  |  Our Town  |  November 30, 2022

The reconstruction of the landmarked North Fire Station is proceeding toward an expected August 2024 completion and reopening.

But the cost could exceed the $8 million so far allocated for the project, according to Jason Debrincat, the town’s senior project engineer.

The top-to-bottom renovation of the building, which is more than 95 years old, was originally pegged at $5.5 million. The Town Council approved $6 million for the work in 2021 and added $2 million this year.

Demolition of the building’s interior began in August and has been completed. Hedrick Brothers, the construction manager at risk, is working on “structural corrective measures” on the doors and window openings, Debrincat said.

“Due to the nature of the restoration process for the landmarked building, demolition of the interior needed to be completed in order to analyze the structure and create reconstruction drawings,” he said.

With that information in hand, the final renovation cost can be established, and it may be higher than $8 million, he said.

Hedrick Brothers is assembling the final “guaranteed maximum price” for presentation to the council in January or February, Debrincat said.

The two-year estimate for construction completion, measured from the start of the work in August, is “still a valid estimate for completion,” he said.

The North Fire Station is the third oldest operating fire station in Florida. The three-story building, which houses 11 fire-rescue and civilian personnel, was landmarked in 1988.

An inspection during the summer of 2021 uncovered water damage and mold intrusion inside the station at 300 N. County Road. The council responded by accelerating by two years an already existing schedule for a rebuild of the historic station.

“We are really excited about the fact the town is doing everything [it] can to preserve the history of that station,” Fire Chief Darrel Donatto said. “They’ve got some top-notch people in there, taking it apart kind-of board by board, seeing what they can preserve.”

In the meantime, North Station emergency responders have been operating out of a temporary station beside the old one, near the intersection of North County Road and Wells Road.

The temporary station was built by American Modular Systems, of Manteca, Calif. The $534,449 contract included the construction of a dormitory trailer that can house up to six firefighters, a bunker trailer to house fire gear, and site modifications.

The temporary station is serving the same response zone as the old one – from Royal Poinciana Way up to the northern tip of the island.

Assistant Fire Chief Sean Baker said emergency response times have remained the same.

“Our number one mission has always been to ensure no adverse impacts are felt by the community related to our emergency response,” Baker said.


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