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SELMA – The city of Selma is taking steps to remodel one of its fire stations to meet Occupational Safety and Health Administration requirements and make room for growth.

Currently, the department has two fire stations, Station 1 at 1927 W. Front St. and Station 2 at 2861 A St.

Fire Chief Mike Kain said it’s Station 2 that is most in need of a major overhaul as firefighters have had to build their own kitchen and bedrooms. Recently, they’ve even converted a closet into a bedroom at the other station as well.

“Our employees who are here have done everything they can to make this fire station work,” Kain said. “We’ve reached that point where we’ve simply outgrown the facility. More importantly, it doesn’t meet a lot of the new OSHA requirements.”

Kain’s comments came during the Jan. 16 City Council meeting where council unanimously approved moving forward on a financing agreement with the Public Facilities Investment Corporation.

The cost would be an estimated $4.7 million and Interim City Manager Henry Perea is looking into having the city enter in to an arrangement for tax-exempt financing. Public Facilities Investment will lease the property where the fire station will be constructed. Then they sublease the property to the city and then take possession once the fire station is constructed.

Kain said he got input from the firefighters that work at both stations and they are behind the renovations.

“Our No. 1 concern is the health of our firefighters so we’re not transferring these carcinogens into our living and work area.”

Michael Scott with the architect firm of RRM Design Group showed a series of PowerPoint slides detailing the upgrades and renovation that are needed at the station. Included in his presentation was a timeline showing the work could start in January 2019 and be completed by December 2019.

“As we look through the pictures, we see some deficiencies,” Scott said, of the existing fire stations. "Bunk rooms aren’t adequately separated from the apparatus bay. Thus, firefighters are exposed to vehicle exhaust fumes. Firefighters are also exposed to fumes from soiled turnout gear and tools when they return from fighting a fire."

“That material left on their turnouts is carcinogenic and is passed into the station,” Scott said.

Also, the firefighters exercise in the same area where trucks are parked and turnouts are stored.

There is also accessibility and building code issues, the bunk rooms lack windows as an escape route and the restroom facilities are inadequate. The station also lacks a sand oil separator, or clarifier, to collect oils from the apparatus as they’re parked in the garage. “Those oils are currently going into the storm water. We want to clean those and protect the storm water,” Scott said.

Since the plan is to retrofit the current building rather than building an entirely new facility, Scott said there will be a significant savings while still bringing the facility up to modern standards.

The station would increase by 7,142 square feet and while some of the existing structure would be renovated, new construction would house new bunk rooms and restrooms.

“We’re very conscience of gender privacy as in today’s world there are quite a few female firefighters. So there are individual restrooms with a modesty policy in the hallway and individual bunkrooms,” Scott said. “We’re also adding a new exercise room and a security fence for secure parking.”

Jeffrey Tamkin, a national real estate developer with the Public Facilities Investment Corporation, explained the financing aspect of the project.

“Our firm as the developer takes full responsibility and assumes the risk of the design, construction, budget and the completion,” Tamkin said. “We can do it in the form of a tax-exempt lease of financing that can go 30 years or whatever term the council is interested in.”

Perea said the proposal will come back to council at a future meeting as final approval wasn’t needed that night.

“If it’s something you want to continue moving on, you direct us – the finance director and [attorney] Neal Costanzo and this gentleman - about what that lease and financing would look like to make a final decision.”

Councilman Scott Robertson asked for input from the fire department staff that was in attendance at the Council meeting.

Kain said firefighter Eric Beasley attended a conference with him regarding the station’s rebuild.

“We also put the design up at each station and asked for comments. The general consensus is we’d like to do this. Our firefighters have been working in a facility that’s been inadequate for 20 to 30 years. We need to move forward. We believe that when the city has an opportunity to grow our staff, we’ll have a place to put them.”

The reporter can be reached at 583-2427 or lbrown@selmaenterprise.com.

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