Ladue Mayor Anthony Bommarito called a special work session to review the costs of building two new fire houses in the community.
Only thing is, the city council never broached the subject of costs. As council member Walter Stern said, attending the meeting by teleconference, “Figuring that out will be up to our finance committee. Our job will be selling it (two new fire houses) to our citizens.”
That is true.
Mostly, there was a spirited back and forth about whether both fire houses will have two bays apiece and what to do with a backup pumper truck and ambulance.
Presently, Ladue’s back up pumper resides at the maintenance building on the city hall grounds. Chief Eric Hinson revealed that the city’s ambulance was down for three weeks while the air conditioner was being fixed. “It was just too hot in July for our paramedics to go out on calls without air conditioning,” the chief stated.
As mentioned, the discussion was lively. All members are keeping a close eye on the budget.
The goal, if the city is going to build two new fire houses is to assure they will remain up to standards and codes and be around for some 50 years.
“This is the time to discuss all of this,” said Charlie Hiemenz, “We have yet to put a spade in the ground.”
The fire chief noted that it is much better to build for extra room now then to add on later. He pointed to Ellisville’s recent expansion plans. “They expanded their building and the brick doesn’t match. It never does,” he said.
All the council members looked towards the chief to see if there are any grant opportunities under FEMA or Homeland Security to underwrite some of these costs.
“I think we should carry this conversation to resolution. The apparatus bays are the nerve center of any fire station and we don’t want to be short sighted to do any squeezing of the building,” said Councilman Art Bond.
“I feel like we have learned a lot from FEMA reports that came out of the Joplin (tornado outcome) said Councilman John Fox.
Councilwoman Nancy Spewak feels the overall costs differences are small. “To build a building with one bay or two bays is relatively close, I think we should just do it.”
Mayor Bommarito is concerned with adding another piece of equipment to the inventory, then driving up the labor costs. Ladue already spends nearly 80 percent of its budget on labor and benefits for its employees.
“It could cost $750,000-$800,000 in additional costs to have a staff to man an additional piece of equipment. We are not growing as a city,” he said, opposing an staff expansions at this this time.
Councilman Fox had the last word. “this is sort of like building a new dog house, and we don’t even have a dog.”
That got a good laugh from everyone.
No action can be taken at a public work session. City staff will try and rush documentation of the meeting in time for Monday’s regularly-scheduled council meeting in order to forward their final thoughts to the Finance Committee.