El Paso city council recently considered an agenda item to approve $553,787.00 to hire an architectural firm for the new fire station #38 project.
If they have been assigning numbers to our fire stations in sequential order then we probably have built 37 others. Fire station #5 (if there still is a #5) is probably old and the design is not appropriate for what is needed now. But how about the last station that we built?
Do we really need a new design?
Granted I’m neither an architect nor a fireman. However I suppose that a fire station is largely a garage with dormitory facilities for its crew (kitchen, showers, beds, maybe some office space) and warehouse space for equipment.
This new station is planned to be about 10,000 square feet.
The anticipated cost is $11.8 million dollars. That comes to about $1,180 per square foot.
R. S. Means is a national company that provides costing information for construction projects. Back in 2013 they reported the national average for construction of a 6,000 square foot fire station to be $140.18 per square foot.
A 2017 posting on the firehouse.com website included this:
Brown Reynolds Watford Architects recommends any department with tight and limited budgets must prioritize their needs. Many stations today are being built between $275 and $400 a square foot.
BRW is the firm that the city is hiring.
There could be a valid reason for this. The city should explain why the fire station will cost so much.
The August 14, 2021 city council agenda had this item on it:
The city is required by state law to publish certain notices.
According to Christy Drake-Adams, legal counsel for the Texas Municipal League:
[Texas Government Code] Section 2051.044 provides that a newspaper used to convey official notices must as a general matter: (1) devote not less than 25 percent of its total column lineage to general interest items; (2) be published at least once each week; (3) be entered as second-class postal matter in the county where published; and (4) have been published regularly and continuously for at least 12 months before the governmental entity or representative publishes notice.
The Times meets these requirements.
But so do other newspapers in El Paso.
Take a look at the agenda item and you will see that the city is making this deal with the Times being a “sole source”–the only ones that can provide the services.
The deal calls for the city to pay up to $1.8 million dollars to the Times over the next three years. According to the agenda item the price per line of print is being increased 85% above their prior rate.
The deal requires the Times to certify that they are the “sole source” that can provide the publishing.
Might this be why we see so little objective reporting from the Times when it comes to city business?
Unfortunately the voters of the city decided a few years ago to grant city representatives and the Mayor four year terms with the representatives having their elections staggered in such a manner that half of the council would be elected while the other half still had two years left in their terms of office.
Some thought that this would provide continuity in government.
It certainly did.
We now have a city council that recently voted to approve $100 million of certificates of obligation just days before a new Texas statute would have prohibited their issuance because some of the things they wanted to fund would no longer be eligible to be funded by certificates of obligation.
Some of the representatives are termed-out–they cannot run again, so what are you going to do to them?
If one of them tries to run in the future for a different office please remember what they did to us.
A better time
Before the changes to our election system the city representatives and mayor were all elected at the same time, once every two years.
We used to be able to throw the whole lot out if they did not meet our expectations.
Talking with your current city representative might not do much good. They probably enjoy what they have.
Be sure to make it an issue with whoever runs against them.