The cost for extending one bay of the fire station adjacent to Solvang City Hall increased by just over $10,000, and with nearly $10,000 in additional contingency funds authorized by the City Council, the cost of the $171,499 project could rise by $20,000.
That increase came even though pavement patching work was deleted from the project, saving a little over $16,000.
But council members said the increase in cost will be well worth the benefit the city will receive from the Santa Barbara County Fire Department’s new ladder truck the extended bay will house — a truck that isn’t costing the city a dime.
The single chassis ladder truck is being purchased for County Fire by the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, which also provided the funding for the city to extend one equipment bay at Fire Station 30, which serves Solvang from its location on Second Street.
The City Council unanimously voted to allocate the additional funds earlier this month to cover changes in the project required by unexpected conditions encountered during the construction process.
City Manager Brad Vidro said the changes to the project resulted from high groundwater encountered at the site by J&P Construction crews.
“Essentially, they have to open up the fire tower and strap the building to it,” Vidro said.
A soils engineer determined the parking lot behind the station is failing and recommended that instead of patching small areas of the lot, the failing subgrade should be corrected across the entire lot.
So the staff recommended pulling the parking lot improvements from the project and adding those to a larger parking lot drainage and improvement project in the next fiscal year’s budget
Vidro said the project would become “a model for what we’re asking other people to do.”
During public comment, Fred Kovol, a former councilman, questioned the project’s funding.
“I really don’t know why you guys are putting one dime into this extension,” Kovol said. “It seems like the casino … should be footing the whole bill.”
He also said he hadn’t seen an analysis of what it would cost to maintain the truck.
The expansion is being paid for with $100,000 provided by the Chumash for design and construction and $113,000 of Indian Gaming Benefit funding that was reallocated from the Alamo Pintado Creek Bicycle Bridge project, which was put on hold due to questions raised by Caltrans.
Nearly $40,000 of the Indian Gaming funds for the bicycle bridge were still available, according to a staff report.
Vidro said the truck’s maintenance costs will be borne by the Santa Barbara County Fire Department.
“All we’re doing is expanding the building,” he said.
Councilman Hans Duus, a former volunteer firefighter for Solvang, said 30 years ago aerial equipment was needed for several incidents, and the trucks had to be brought in from Lompoc and Santa Barbara.
After those incidents, Solvang had aerial equipment available locally until the County Fire Department took over fire protection for the city, he said.
“It’s not used much, but when it’s needed, it’s needed now,” Duus said of the aerial equipment. “When the big one does hit, having a piece of equipment available in a matter of minutes is going to be worth any amount of extra cost.”
Mayor Jim Richardson agreed.
“We’re not paying for this truck, but having it available is a godsend,” he said.
The new ladder truck is expected to be delivered in June.