Garden City commissioners toured the progress of renovations to the city’s central fire station with positive reviews of the expansion project intended to create a more livable space for firefighters.

Talk of the project began with the City Commission in July 2015, and Fire Chief Allen Shelton said construction began in June 2016. The project is slated for completion by the end of October.

The $1.7 million project includes external expansion and a range of facilities designed to more comfortably accommodate eight on-duty firefighters: new dormitory space, new office space, new bathrooms for male and female firefighters, updated alarm and vehicle exhaust removal systems, a new study space, a new exercise facility, new living areas and furnishing, a new meeting room, a larger kitchen area, better access to the apparatus bay, a new laundry facility, and other amenities that will make the fire station a place firefighters can truly call home.

“What people have to understand, these guys live here 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so this is their home when they’re away from their own home, so therefore, we’re trying to provide living quarters that are suitable for living in,” Shelton said.

City Commissioner Roy Cessna offered his stamp of approval on the project’s progress on Friday, following his tour of the construction efforts.

“It looked like it’s meeting demands of the fire department and the expectations of the City Commission, of what we approved for the expansion of the fire department at the central station to help with their needs as they have grown with staff and with the necessary equipment that they need to protect not only the firefighters in the course of their jobs, but also protecting the community,” he said.

During a separate tour of the developing facilities, Shelton noted that the original central fire station was built in 1982 and was intended exclusively for firefighters working on a volunteer basis. Garden City’s fire department became a combination department in 1984, when Shelton was promoted as the first paid Garden City fire chief.

Shelton said the original fire station layout did not include living quarters, and so a large meeting room was converted into dormitory space and a smaller meeting room was remodeled into a kitchen, otherwise called a “dayroom.”

A consultant study conducted in 2014 by Kent Greene, then a senior vice president with Emergency Services Consulting International, determined that the central fire station is in an optimal location to carry out its services. As a result, city officials are invested in preserving the facility for the future.

The same study found that a third fire station on the east side of the city would provide better protection in an area experiencing high growth.

Shelton said in July 2015 that a renovated central fire station would provide adequate space to train firefighters before transferring them to the third fire station upon its completion.

The City Commission currently is proposing a city/county sales tax hike of .3 cents to be put on the November ballot that would alleviate the financial weight of building a third fire station, among other projects.

“We’ve just extended the life of this building,” Shelton said. “You build a building, and you want to get at least 50 years of service out of it. And here we have a building that is 34 years old right now, and by doing all these renovations, I know we’ve extended the life out by many, many years.”

The central fire station will incorporate a new platform truck into its arsenal within the next three to four weeks, Shelton said. The $1.2 million truck will provide firefighters with use of a platform capable of extending 100 feet. The platform would be best suited to Garden City’s commercial buildings, but might also find use in residential areas.

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