MFPD Board of Directors awards contract for new firehouse to Diestelkamp Construction

Firehouse will be constructed without tax hike or bond issue.

By MIKE ANTHONY

A contract to construct a new No. 4 firehouse was awarded last week to Diestelkamp Construction Co. by the Mehlville Fire Protection District Board of Directors.

Archimages of Kirkwood, selected by the board in December to provide architectural and engineering services to design the new firehouse, recommended the contract be awarded to Diestelkamp Construction. The company’s base bid of $1,439,000 was the lowest of 14 submitted for the project, and the Board of Directors voted unanimously April 15 to accept Archimages’ recommendation.

The base bids ranged from Diestelkamp’s low bid to $1,646,818.

The new firehouse will be built on a one-acre parcel at 13117 and 13119 Tesson Ferry Road. The site, across the street from the existing No. 4 firehouse at 13106 Tesson Ferry Road, was purchased by the district in September for $800,000.

The existing No. 4 firehouse, built in the mid-1960s, is deteriorating and needs to be replaced, according to Board of Directors Chairman Aaron Hilmer.

Archimages also provided design services for the district’s new No. 2 firehouse at 5434 Telegraph Road, which was completed last year. That one-story, energy-efficient firehouse has 6,554 square feet of space and three engine bays. The new one-story, energy-efficient No. 4 firehouse will be similar in design to the No. 2 firehouse, but will be larger with roughly 8,500 square feet of space with three engine bays.

Some of the differences between the new No. 4 house and the recently completed No. 2 house include an additional sleeping room that was added for future expansion, a slightly expanded captain’s quarters, a decontamination room off the engine bay and a separate room for firefighters’ turnout gear.

Another change from the No. 2 house is the addition of a mezzanine, which will allow firefighters to perform training exercises inside the firehouse.

Archimages interviewed the two firms that submitted the lowest base bids, Diestelkamp and Interior Construction Services, which submitted a bid of $1,458,000. Board of Directors Secretary Ed Ryan participated in the interviews and made the motion to award the contract to Diestelkamp, saying, “… The low bid pretty much takes it and they have some good experience …”

After the board voted, Hilmer asked Ryan, “… We went up 2,000 square feet from house 2 to house 4. But the price went up roughly only 10 percent. Is that what you said before?”

“We went up between 10 and 12 percent and this is regarding to base contractor costs. There’s going to be other costs that are going to be similar …,” Ryan said, citing the cost of furniture, fixtures and equipment. “But overall for an increase about 10 percent of the cost, we’re increasing the area by 30 percent … Very competitive bids — all of the contractors were very competitive. People really want to work and that showed in their bidding …”

Hilmer told the Call he was pleased with the bid submitted by Diestelkamp and noted since he and board Treasurer Bonnie Stegman took office in April 2005, two new firehouses have been constructed — the No. 2 house on Telegraph Road and the No. 1 house at 3241 Lemay Ferry Road. This new firehouse, like the other two, will be constructed without a tax-rate increase or any type of bonded indebtedness, he said.

“After we get done with this one, we’ve pretty much brought them (the district’s firehouses) up to date,” Hilmer said. “Perhaps there’s one more replacement we’re looking at down the road …

“What I think is so exciting about this whole process is how basic it is. We’re not wasting money on community engagements and gearing up tax issues and bond issues or tax extensions,” he said. “We’re just living within the confines of the lowest fire district tax rate in St. Louis County, fixing 20 years of mismanagement. And it’s being done so simply. That’s what I find exciting about this.”

In a separate matter last week, the board voted unanimously to adopt a resolution seeking reimbursement from the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District for expenses incurred by the fire district responding to calls resulting from the sewer district’s use of smoke to test for leaks in sewer lines.

The resolution states the MSD “performs smoke testing within the boundary of the Mehlville Fire Protection District, which often generates a subsequent fire call and creates the perception of an emergency situation for citizens of the district …”

Hilmer said to Chief Time White, “All right, Tim, you want to charge MSD for some testing? … You want to charge them, but the question is: Will we get paid?”

White said, “Well, we’re going to find out if the board approves this. It’s really a situation where the taxpayers can no longer absorb this kind of a liability. It’s one thing when somebody calls up — a smoke detector that’s malfunctioning or their home alarm is malfunctioning, but it’s quite another when we have a repeat offender or I should say that constantly is calling us up to respond to these smoke scare situations.

“It’s not that we mind going there. Of course, if somebody fears that their house is on fire or they see smoke, we’ll readily respond. However, if it’s going to be an individual entity that’s constantly causing this issue, we just simply can’t justifiably absorb this cost. The taxpayers can’t continually absorb this …,” the chief said.

The district would charge the MSD $387.50 for responding, White said, noting, “The cost is derived from the state of Missouri’s Department of Natural Resources’ cost scale for emergency responders …”

Hilmer said he believed the board should adopt the resolution.

“… I mean we’ve given them ample warning. We’ve tried to work with them. We’ve explained to them the issue at stake … What did we get — three calls in one day about two weeks ago on a Friday?” he said.

White said, “That’s right and I’m not sure if there’s been anybody quite honestly who has worked with them as intensely as I have as the chief of this district. I’ve spent a great deal of time and they’ve been very receptive to working with me. They didn’t stonewall me. They’ve been very up front with what has been transpiring, what happens and how they do things. So there’s really no hidden agenda. It’s just simply the way they do things, which is fine. It’s just simply that they have to be accountable to the taxpayers of this district.”

Contacted by the Call, MSD spokesman Lance LeComb said, “Whenever we go into a neighborhood, prior to doing that testing we do a lot of outreach. We leave door hangers to let folks know. We work with the local fire department and we do this all over the area. But sometimes folks see smoke, they don’t recall getting the brochure, what have you, and they call the fire department …”

But he said, “I’m not aware of there being a particular issue with Mehlville or if this is in response to something specific or what have you.”

Asked if other entities had sought similar reimbursement from the MSD, he said, “Not to my recollection … This is certainly a unique circumstance and this is something that we’re just becoming aware of through (this) phone call — or at least I am …”