Billings opts for new firehall build

Two door rural fire hall in the winter.
The Billings firehall will be demolished with a new one built in its place.

KAGAWONG—Billings Township council, through a recorded vote, has decided to demolish the existing local fire hall and erect a new structure on-site, utilizing components of the current rehabilitation project. The motion was made despite calls from one councillor to delay the decision to investigate having a pre-engineered building constructed that would include the fire hall and a larger public works building.

“We have been through several extensive staff investigations, with all three original options researched. Staff, along with our engineer and legal counsel, agree we should remain with the same solution, option two,” said Mayor Bryan Barker at a council meeting last week. It was pointed out the total cost for demolition of the building by Quinan Construction and construction of the new fire hall at the same (current) site would be $1.6 million.

“As a council I think we would be foolish not to take the information and recommendation from our staff and the experts (and go with option two),” said Mayor Barker. “And there is the integrity of the contract we have with the contractor as well and possibly opening ourselves to liability if we don’t go ahead. I think we should be dealing with the hand we have been dealt. I am not in favour of putting off this decision any further. Staff has done extensive research on the options as has our engineer. I don’t think we should put this decision off any further.”

A motion had earlier in the meeting been put forward and seconded by Councillors Michael Hunt and Vince Grogan to accept the report to move forward with option two to demolish the current fire hall building and build the new fire hall on the current site.

“I would like to talk about this a little bit,” said Councillor Jim Cahill. He pointed out the original contract council had accepted for refurbishing the building was $1.1 million and now with the additional costs such as demolition of the building they are now at approximately $1.6 million.

Tulloch had estimated option three, demolition of the existing fire hall, move the fire hall to the existing public works building and relocating public works to the new facility.

“With option three we have the quote of $4,495,000 for the public works building,” said Mr. Cahill, who pointed out there have been two cons provided by the engineers for option three (demolish the existing fire hall, move the fire hall to the existing public works building and relocate public works to a new facility) it is has the longest duration of construction, and the highest cost of all three presented options.”

“However, a pre-engineered structure could be built in the same time frame and at a much less cost,” said Councillor Cahill. He said a quote the township staff received from Hawkesbury that undertook a similar new build and supporting engineer report for the construction of a new public works garage came at an estimated cost of $7.2 million, but said a comparison of Billings with Hawkesbury is “not comparing apples to apples,” because they have six bays, and the building size would be twice the size of Billings. “I don’t think there should be a comparison at all, a pre-engineering option costs $200,000 or less.”

“I feel that we should demolish the building right away,” said Councillor Cahill. “It’s a safety issue. But I think we should allow two more weeks to consider a pre-engineered option. We are putting more than $1 million on the books in deficit to the taxpayers. That’s all I’m suggesting. If we took a couple of weeks to look at a pre-engineered building I think would be a prudent thing to do, and we would end up having two buildings for the price of one.”

“I appreciate what you are saying, but I have a problem with not utilizing some of the materials we have already paid for under Quinan and not salvaging everything we can even with demolition,” said Councillor Vince Grogan.

It was explained the cost estimates for a pre-engineered building are very incomplete, would be only for the basic structure itself. It does not include anything inside the building.

“There are cost delay (financial) penalties dating back to November when the building was closed off to further construction due to safety concerns,” said Mayor Barker.

Mayor Barker noted there has been a complaint to the Ministry of Labour since the firehall station work area was shutdown due to safety concerns. He also said, “the pre-engineered structure proposal does not include the demolition costs of the current fire hall, heating, plumbing, insulation, washroom facilities, parking and other costs. As well, if the work is not carried out, the township could face breach of contract penalties and litigation.”

Councillor David Hillyard said that since the December 19 meeting where council looked at the three options, the pricing in that time has gone up considerably. “I think we should look at investigating option three.”

Councillor Michael Hunt said, “We have to demolish the building and start new on a firehall on the present property footprint.”

Councillor Grogan asked if there is any funding available for this type of project and was told there isn’t.

Mayor Barker noted as well, “if we were to look at option three the whole process would have to be re-tendered. And again, there is a time factor. When you analyze all the facts, it may be a hard pill to swallow, but the best option is two.”

“I agree,” stated Councillor Grogan.

Councillor Cahill said, “option three would see the cost under $1.7 million to get a new fire hall, and a new public works building with probably a 30-year lifespan. To take two weeks to look at a pre-engineered solution would be worth it. We are talking a lot of money and debt that is being put on the township taxpayers.”

Councillor Cahill requested a recorded vote on the motion to proceed with option two. Councillors Michael Hunt, and Vince Grogan along with Mayor Bryan Barker were in favour, with Councillors Jim Cahill and Dave Hillyard voting against the motion.

The council agreed to apply for infrastructure Ontario funding for both short and long term lending of funds for the project.