Joseph Cranney - Naples Daily News USA TODAY NETWORK - FLORIDA
Work to build a fire station behind Naples City Hall is expected to cost about $3 million over budget, prompting a recommendation for the Naples City Council to borrow money for the project.
Leading bids from construction firms to complete the work came in between $8 million to $10 million. The council only has about $5.6 million set aside for the project.
The council on Wednesday will consider awarding a nearly $8.6 million contract to the lowest bidder, Manhattan Construction. The Naples- based firm is part of Rooney Holdings, owned by U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney and his family.
Finance Director Ann Marie Ricardi recommends the council pay for the project with a 20-year bank loan.
The new two-story fire station, expected to stand for at least 50 years, will be built with special protections intended to withstand hurricanes as strong as a Category 5. It will also serve as the city’s emergency operations center.
Mayor Bill Barnett said the facility is needed.
“After seeing how the county runs their EOC, we definitely need that here,” Barnett said about the county’s emergency operations during Hurricane Irma.
Facing the mounting costs, Councilman Doug Finlay said the council’s hands are tied now that crews have already demolished the city’s old fire station behind City Hall. Firefighters are operating out of a temporary location on Riverside Circle.
“As to now, unfortunately, there is no longer a Fire Station No. 1, and the current (temporary) location is less than desirable, and the (temporary) building was never designed to be a fire station, so council must move forward in some way,” Finlay said.
The increased price tag for the fire station comes amid the council’s recent flurry of capital spending.
Baker Park, the public park under construction along the Gordon River, will cost at least $23 million, largely covered by direct taxpayer dollars. And taxpayers could be on the hook for some of the city’s annual debt payments toward the $6.5 million internal loan the council authorized to pay for a rebuild of the City Dock.
The dock operates its $1.6 million budget separate from the city’s $36 million general fund, but taxpayers could be on the hook for annual interest payments if the council decides the dock can’t afford them.
The council this summer also signaled support for using taxpayer money to pay for a multimillion dollar parking garage near Fifth Avenue South. But the council tabled the project after Hurricane Irma, citing the expected millions in cleanup and repair costs.
Fire Chief Pete DiMaria said he understands concerns about the city’s recent capital spending.
“I’m a taxpayer — I live in the city of Naples,” he said. “I am as well concerned about costs of all the projects that the city takes on.”
But he said a new fire station with an emergency operations center could help limit cleanup costs the next time a storm hits.
“It gives us the ability to have a rapid response, which in hand allows the city to recover quickly,” DiMaria said.
Ricardi, the finance director, recommends the council take out a bank loan to cover the $8.6 million construction of the station and the roughly $400,000 expected in construction management costs.
The loan would require annual payments of roughly $600,000 from the taxpayers’ general fund. Those payments would also help cover roughly $3 million in interest and other costs.
City Manager Bill Moss suggested a second option for a loan that covers just the $3.4 million exceeding what is already budgeted for the project.
That loan would require annual $400,000 payments for 10 years