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Architect hired to design new fire station

Last night the Sunnyside City Council by a 4-1 vote approved a contract totaling just over $380,000 with MJ Neal Associates architectural firm.

The contract calls for the firm to design a new fire station, but the city is obligated only to pay first for the the initial phase. That phase of the contract is the design plans for a fire station and the cost is approximately $135,000.

"Where's the money going to come from," Councilman Mike Farmer asked.

Sunnyside Fire Chief Aaron Markham said more than $250,000 remains in the EMS fund. That fund a short time ago totaled $500,000, but was used to purchase the property next to the fire station at the corner of South Eighth Street and East Franklin Avenue. That purchase cost $250,000.

Mark Neal, owner of MJ Neal Associates, said the city's attorneys built into the architectural contract stipulations allowing the city to back out of the contract if funding for the fire station cannot be found.

He said the design of the fire station is important for securing additional funds to complete the project.

If the city wishes to seek grant funding, state or federal dollars, or a voter-approved bond measure, the design must be in place, said Neal.

"This is a standard AIA (American Institute of Architects) document used for legal review," Neal said of the contract.

He said the contract is needed for addressing the size, scope and insurance needs of a project.

"This is a start to the process to determine funding needs for the (fire station) project," said Neal.

He said the goal of his firm is to have a preliminary design ready by the fall of this year.

Mayor Jim Restucci asked, "Are we putting the cart before the horse or do we have to have the plan in place for funding?"

Neal said the plan is critical for securing any funding because voters will not approve a bond if they do not know what they are buying in advance and other agencies want a project to be completed expediently. Without a plan, the process takes longer and funding can be cut, he said.

Farmer asked Markham for a firm commitment for the funds for the initial phase of the contract and Markham responded, assuring him the funds would come from the EMS fund. That fund, he said, can be used for any capital improvement project in addition to the purchase of equipment.

When Farmer pressed him, asking if the Sunnyside Fire Department had plans of making any equipment purchases, Markham said there were no purchases planned until at least 2013, the next biennium budget.

Councilwoman Theresa Hancock said, "It sounds as though we have the funds for the planning stage of the project...the only way to get the project completed is to get it started."

The contract was approved with Farmer remaining as the lone stand-out.

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