By Rusty Bradshaw
Sun City and Youngtown residents can expect to see construction begin in July on a new fire station for the Sun City Fire and Medical Department.
In the meantime, Sun City Fire officials are busy getting the players in place for the project. Fire district board members approved in February Perlman as the architect for the building. Fire officials sent out requests for qualifications for a general contractor and are expected to select a firm by the end of April or beginning of May, according to Ron Deadman, Sun City assistant fire chief.
“The RFQ process closes March 22,” he explained in an email.
Despite the lack of construction activity, the new station is taking shape.
“We are moving ahead full steam on this project,” said Mike Thompson, Sun City fire chief, during a March 7 Sun City Posse meeting.
Mr. Deadman said the building will be a two-story, 16,000-square-foot structure with a minimum of three drive-through bays and housing to support two fire companies, about a dozen personnel, and one ambulance. The station will include independent facilities for both men and women.
“While the call volume supports two companies, the initial plan is to have one engine and an ambulance stationed at FS 133,” he stated.
The station will be sited on the lot so the bay doors will face 111th Avenue, and outgoing traffic will empty onto 111th Avenue, Mr. Deadman said. The advantage to this approach is there should be no traffic backup caused from cars waiting for the light at Grand and 111th avenues, he stated. There will also be no traffic signal at the new station, as there is at the current site, 13013 N. 111th Ave. However, there will be warning lights on each side of 111th Avenue to warn drivers when a fire vehicle will exit the station, according to Mr. Thompson.
“The existing traffic signal is mostly for firefighters’ safety when they have to be in the street to guide the truck when backing in after a call,” he explained. “With the new station, we won’t be backing trucks into the building.”
The new station is expected to be complete and ready to occupy by July 2018, Mr. Deadman added.
During construction and when the station is completed, parking around the property will be eliminated. This will cause some inconvenience for businesses in the area, but Youngtown officials are researching options to address the parking issue, according to Mayor Mike LeVault.
“We are still working on it,” he said. “Right now it is a matter of finding the funding.”
Mr. LeVault said finding a solution in the immediate area of the fire station property is difficult because that property is surrounded on three sides by businesses and the fourth side is 111th Avenue. However, town officials are considering installing a parking lot on a piece of town-owned property on the west end of Wisconsin Avenue.
While not in the immediate area of the affected businesses, Mr. LeVault believes this is a workable solution due to Youngtown being what he called a walkable community because of its compact size. To enhance that, town officials are also researching posssible block grants to install 80,000 linear feet of sidewalks in the community.
“A lot of our streets do not have sidewalks,” he said.
Town officials also hope to secure $250,000 in grants to install street lights.
In the meantime, town officials are discussing the issue with businesses near the station property to see if a shared parking agreement would help.
“We as a town want to do what we can,” Mr. LeVault said. “We don’t want to do anything that will hurt our businesses.”
Sun City Fire officials will use about $6 million of a voter-approved $10 million bond to build the fire station. The new station will also be designated Station 133, replacing the old fire station. But district officials may use the old station building for much-needed office space and a gym for district personnel, Mr. Thompson said during an open house earlier this year.
The district is averaging 14,000 calls per year, but only has the capacity to answer 11,000 of those calls. The overflow capacity is met with support from out-of-district fire units in Glendale, Peoria and sometimes Phoenix through the countywide automatic aid system.
However, call times are longer when that happens and outlying communities are unlikely to keep providing that service without expecting something in return, according to Mr. Thompson.
Concurrent with construction plans, district officials are proceeding with other capital improvements funded by the bond, including refurbishing two engines and purchasing a new ambulance.
Editor’s Note: Matt Roy contributed to this story.