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  • By Lisa Brody

Fire station opening delayed due to minor problems

Those driving by the new Chesterfield Fire Station in Birmingham are wondering why it hasn't reopened after a reconstruction which appears to be complete, but chief John Connaughton said “minor” problems with construction trades has led to delays, and the new station should be open and operational within about two months.

Approvals for the new station, at the corner of Chesterfield and Maple roads, were given in May 2016, by the Birmingham City Commission, for a new station that would be 9,800 square feet. The new station will house two engines, two rescue vehicles, four firefighters, a Hazmat truck, a utility truck, one technical response vehicle, and have living and sleeping accommodations for at least four firefighters. They will also have a small boat to be able to respond to drownings or other emergencies at Quarton Lake.

EMS will continue to operate out the Adams station, but a reserve ambulance will be housed at Chesterfield.

Connaughton said at the time that the former station had been built in 1955 on slab, and was 5,100 square feet. Because of innovations of trucks and machinery, the building had become obsolete. For example, in 1955, the truck bay was 10 feet; today it needs to be at least 15 feet to accommodate larger trucks.

In May 2016, the city commission, based on recommendations and a presentation from Connaughton, chose the architectural firm Sidock Group, Inc. of Novi, which he said had designed 50 other fire stations, and understood the needs of the department, “which was to design and develop a fire station that is very iconic, very functional, and works for the city of Birmingham.”

On Thursday, August 9, Connaughton said they had run into “some problems with trades who were hired to do the work, some who had been unaccessible. There was nothing that was structural. For example, the flooring that was laid down – it didn't look nice. You wouldn't accept it in your home.” He said it had to be replaced.

While the landscaping appears to be complete, in actuality there have been problems with the landscaping, Connaughton said, including issues with ponding. Roofing contractors also left refuse on the roof. “We made them go back in and sweep it up so it would look new. But there was nothing like leaks,” he said. “There are no structural problems now.”

A more significant problem, one the department is trying to downplay, is a sensor issue with the garage doors on the truck bays in the front of the building. The two bay doors have bifold garage doors. “They're the coolest doors I've ever seen,” Connaughton said, however, they could close on an individual or piece of machinery – creating a significant safety issue.

“We wanted sensors if someone was standing there, or if a piece of equipment should be there,” he said. “Initially it's not something anyone thought of.”

He said contractors and architects pointed out that there are sensors on the inside, but the fire department does not believe that is sufficient, and all interested parties are currently working to rectify that.

Connaughton said he believes all issues will be taken care of sufficiently within the next two months, and they will receive a certificate of occupancy “within two months at the most,” and “when we open, we'll have events where the public will be able to come in and visit.”

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