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Longboat Key Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2016 5 years ago

Firehouse looking at costly repairs

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Recommendations to either renovate or tear down and rebuild the south fire station come with price tags between $2.3 million to $3.5 million.
by: Kurt Schultheis Senior Editor

The Longboat Key Town Commission will wrestle with another hefty capital improvement project at its Feb. 16 workshop.

Commissioners will be presented with cost options to either renovate or tear down and rebuild the south fire station at 2162 Gulf of Mexico Drive.

Recommendations to either renovate or tear down and rebuild come with price tags between $2.3 million to $3.5 million.

A $25,000 budget line item in fiscal 2015 was reserved for a study to reveal the major issues with a firehouse that has been a cause of concern for firefighter/paramedics and Fire Rescue Chief Paul Dezzi for several years.

By some standards, the 30-year-old building isn’t exactly old, but it’s the oldest town-owned building.

Built in 1986, it was constructed with an exterior insulation foam system called EIFS.

Also known as synthetic stucco, it’s a popular exterior finish contractors still use today. The EIFS layer bonds to form a hollow covering to a building.

Although the product has been known to work well, some versions of the product from the 1980s reportedly cause structural problems in areas with high moisture content, especially when openings in the EIFS layer allow moisture to seep into the structure through cracks and holes.

That’s what has happened at the south fire station, where several cracks and holes in the EIFS layer exist on the building’s sides.

In May 2014, firefighter/paramedics found interior black mold on air-conditioning vents in their living quarters.

The town paid for a company to test the mold, and tests came back negative for potential health hazards. The air conditioner’s air handler, which sits in a humid closet without ventilation, was also found covered with mold in 2014. Measures were taken to reduce humidity in the air-conditioning closet and throughout the firehouse.

No additional mold has been found during periodic testing.

But the building’s issues aren’t just structural.

When the building was constructed, there wasn’t a need for separate men’s and women’s locker area facilities and bathrooms.

That’s not the case today, because the town has three female firefighters.

A plan that Dezzi calls “not good enough,” has women in the bathroom with the door locked to shower and both men and women changing in front of their lockers at the same time.

The south fire station also has an outdated alarm system that will cost $7,000 to replace.

The town has also held off on replacing old ductwork at a cost of approximately $60,000 until a decision on the building is made.

Since 2003, the town has spent $236,206 on repairs to the fire station (see sidebar).

Town Manager Dave Bullock said he will make a recommendation to the Town Commission next week but wasn’t willing to announce his recommendation prematurely to the Longboat Observer.

“But I’m not in the replacement of the entire station mode right now,” Bullock said. 

Dezzi has stated in the past that if he had his wish, the department would get a new multiuse firehouse that could include room for meeting space for residents and a small on-site medical center.

On Feb. 3, free CPR fire lessons (see page 12A) resulted in more than 80 people attending lessons and taking tours of the north fire station. At times, Dezzi said they had to limit the number of participants because only 25 people were allowed in the meeting room at a time per occupancy limits. Dezzi also notes the south fire station currently doesn’t even have a small meeting space for employees or residents to use.

“I think the space would be utilized by us and residents,” Dezzi said. “But I realize it’s a big expenditure that needs to be given serious thought.”

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