NEWBERRY – At a recent meeting, the Newberry City Commission approved a financial plan and gave approval to negotiate a contract with the low bidder to begin renovations to Newberry Fire Station #28, located at 310 N.W. 250th Street. The base bid received was $579,137. However, all of the subcontractors that contractor was planning to use were from out of the area. The commission requested that staff investigate local subcontractors to see if any of them could provide the same services at a better price. Areas in which subcontractors will be sought locally include insulation, plumbing, drywall, framing, electrical, masonry and roofing.

Travis Parker, Facilities Supervisor for the city and project manager for the fire station renovations said, “I’m glad they approved us to get a contractor.” Parker has provided coordination with the architect, engineer and contractors as well as coordinating the bookkeeping and financial plans for the project since Feb. 3, 2015.

Newberry Fire Chief Ben Buckner, who has been with the department since 1994 and chief for the past three years, said it is urgent to get some of the renovations done.

“We don’t have room,” said Buckner. “We have a need. There’s also a gender issue because of the barracks-style sleeping area.”

The fire station, which was built in 1980, with blueprints dating back to 1975, has had only roof-over type improvements in the past 36 years.

“This is basic stuff,” Buckner said. “It’s not fluff. We have single-pane windows with wooden frames. It’s just not energy efficient. We spend about $1,000 a month in utilities.”

In addition to repairs and renovations, the city is planning to increase the department's footprint by adding an ambulance bay. At the time an ambulance becomes stationed at the facility, two more beds will also be required for the sleeping area, which is another consideration when the renovation to the sleeping area takes place.

Currently, $264,480 is available to spend on the project. The city has a perpetual lease on the communications tower and set those funds aside for the project as well as city-budgeted funds from last year.

Additional funding options could include a loan from the city’s Enterprise Funds to the General Fund for any amount exceeding $264,480, with the fire department annual budget including debt-service payments to the Enterprise Funds. The fire department could also pay debt to an external creditor.

“I’m not going to sit here and blame previous commissioners for kicking the can down the road, but are we just going to try and keep everyone pacified or are we actually going to do something to help the station,” Newberry Commissioner Jason McGehee said.

“Let’s just do it right so it’s here for the future,” he said.

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