SARATOGA SPRINGS -- The city is hiring a Syracuse construction firm that has a specialty in fire station designs to do an initial study on what will be needed at a planned third fire station on the city's East Side, where residents have long called for emergency services closer to where they live.
The $33,000 contract with Heuber-Breuer Construction Co. was approved by the City Council last week. It is an initial step in developing plans for a new city fire and ambulance station on Henning Road on land belonging to the New York Racing Association. The study is to be finished by the end of March.
"We're fully committed to that spot, we're moving forward, and this is a first step in that process," said Robin Dalton, the city's new public safety commissioner.
Preliminary discussions have been about a 10,000- to 15,000-square-foot, three-bay station, costing anywhere between $3 million and $6 million, but city officials have said those are rough estimates that will need to be refined before the city can make a final decision.
Heuber-Breuer has a team of designers that specializes in planning, designing and building fire stations and public safety facilities. It has worked in recent years on new stations in Jonesville, Glenville and Ballston, as well as the new station now under construction in the Charlton Fire District.
Dalton said the firm will estimate how much space the new station would need, recommend a potential design, and come up with a more detailed cost estimate. It is the first concrete followup on the agreement for a site the city reached last year with NYRA.
In October, Mayor Meg Kelly announced that the city tentatively had site for the long-discussed East Side station, using NYRA-owned land that is part of the Oklahoma Training Track property.
At about the same time, the state Franchise Oversight Board authorized NYRA to negotiate a long-term lease agreement with the city for 2.36 acres of NYRA-owned land on Henning Avenue. The negotiations on the actual land lease are continuing.
Franchise Oversight Board Chairman Robert Williams said allowing the city to build a fire station there would address long-standing concerns about response time should there ever be a fire at Saratoga Race Course, where NYRA holds its summer thoroughbred meet.
NYRA officials strongly support the idea of a fire station adjoining their property.
"NYRA is an enthusiastic advocate for this project," NYRA spokesman Patrick McKenna said in a news release in October. "NYRA brought this matter to the [Franchise Oversight Board] after being approached by city leaders earlier this year who had expressed concern about the need to improve emergency response times for our neighbors on the east side of Saratoga Springs."
For city officials, a fire station on Henning Road would achieve a goal they have been working toward for 30 years, to the frustration of many both inside and outside city government.
To explain their slow progress, city officials have repeatedly cited difficulty finding affordable land on the east site of the city, where some of the community's most expensive homes have been built in recent decades. Previous public safety commissioner Chris Mathiesen negotiated a land swap with a developer who would have traded his land for a city-owned downtown parking lot, but that deal ultimately foundered amid legal challenges to the arrangement.