Fire District to hire its own project manager for Freeland station

"Fire District 3 will hire its own project manager for construction of the new Freeland fire station.The decision was made Thursday night by the district commissioners, who were determined to avoid a repeat of the situation that occurred at the new Saratoga fire station.At Saratoga, Fire Chief Don Smith had to spend much of his time overseeing the trouble project that was stalled for months when the general contractor went bankrupt, and later by questions about how its metal siding was installed. It has been a year since work began on the project and it is still not occupied by the fire district.We don't want the chief using as much time as at Saratoga, Commissioner Bill Benjamin said. He and fellow commissioners Mike Helland and Bob Elliot agreed that construction supervision isn't in the fire chief's job description.We want an expert in the building industry, said Benjamin, who like his fellow commissioners was attired in a new matching, monogrammed South Whidbey Fire Commissioner shirt.An ad will soon be placed in The South Whidbey Record soliciting bids for the position.Two representatives of the architect who designed the Freeland station, Carletti Architects of Mount Vernon, attended the meeting and raised some concerns about the position. Peter Carletti said that if a good contractor is hired who provides a good job superintendent, the new position would not be needed. Alluding to bids already received for the new station, he said, There are several great contractors who will put a great superintendent on it.Carletti worried that the additional person could confuse communication between the architect and contractor. But the commissioners argued the new person will be a help, not a hindrance. He's going to be your eyes, Elliot said. He's going to run everything through you.The comments seemed to ease Carletti's concerns, and he finally agreed the position could work. I can see some real value in it for you guys, he told the commissioners. Project architect Tim Goodman agreed.Bids for the Freeland project will be opened Monday. The schedule calls for construction to begin in mid-September on the site at Cameron Road and Highway 525.In other business on that hot Thursday night, with a dog chewing on a rawhide bone in one corner of the room and two does carefully nibbling around blackberry bushes just outside the open door, the commissioners made a big budget move, sending $1.38 million from the reserve fund to the regular budget.Chief Smith said the money will be used for projects already approved: the new Freeland station, acquisition of property for the central headquarters on Thompson Road in Bayview; and purchase of various equipment; $251,000 will be used to remodel the Clinton fire station.The commissioners approved a check to purchase 10 acres on Thompson Road for $120,676. Another 9.3 acres has been secured with earnest money in a deal to be finalized soon. "

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