Fort Atkinson Fire Station expansion proposalFort Atkinson Fire Station expansion proposal

Architect’s rendering of proposed Fort Atkinson Fire Department expansion project.

Fort Atkinson’s fire station — slated for expansion and renovations next year — will use solar power.

During the Fort Atkinson City Council meeting Tuesday, Fire Chief Daryl Rausch presented two options to install solar panels on the 41-year-old building, which is being expanded and renovated.

He said using solar power on the new fire station is to align the plans with the city’s comprehensive plan and its mandate to “emphasize energy-efficiency, sustainability, and cost-effectiveness in all aspects of municipal government.”

The options presented were not final, set designs, according to Rausch, who said the solar aspect of the project doesn’t even have a vendor yet. They were presented so the council can give the fire department some direction as it moves forward with the project.

“This is giving us direction on which way you’d like us to go,” Rausch said. “We wanted to make sure council wanted to go further with solar.”

Option A involves installing panels on only the west portion of the renovated building. Rausch advised the council that this is not his preferred plan because it would take more than 20 years for the energy savings to be worth the cost of the panels.

That is because the new station will have an HVAC system that puts what Rausch called “a significant electric load on the system.”

He said the new HVAC system will provide natural gas savings of 30 percent, but the first solar option wouldn’t be enough to make up the electric costs.

Rausch suggested using Option B, which involves putting solar panels on both the east and west portions of the new roof.

Neither option, according to Rausch, involved putting solar panels on the existing portions of the roof because it would add half a million dollars to the project.

Rausch said Option B was best because it fits within what was budgeted for the solar panels and would pay itself back in energy savings in 13 years.

After the council approved moving forward with Option B, Rausch updated the members on the expansion project’s progress.

He said the design process is “virtually done,” with the only design aspect left to be ironed out being the shared parking lot between the fire and police departments.

By Dec. 1, Rausch said, 22 bid packages will be completed. By Jan. 1, those packages will be sent to about a dozen vendors.

“We’re looking for as many local sub(contractors) as we can,” Rausch said, adding a lot of the work can be done by small to mid-size contractors.

Rausch also said the department has worked to cut $225,000 out of the project to fit the budget, adding that he hoped some bids will come in under what the department has estimated.

One factor that plays into this, according to Rausch, is that the price of steel is down.

“We’ll be at or under budget as long as we don’t run into anything during construction,” Rausch said.

The $5.49 million project calls for expanding the station into the first row of the municipal parking lot adjacent to the station for construction of a two-story portion to accommodate the administrative functions and living quarters on the east end.

By moving the administrative services to the opposite end of the facility provides an opportunity to continue operating out of the facility during construction.

The space would include expanded living quarters and a training room that accommodates all members of the department. The current building does not have a room that legally allows for all the members to be present.

To the west, the former administration section of the station would be demolished and three additional apparatus bays would be built to make room for four additional pieces of apparatus. One of the bays would be designed as a wash and maintenance site.

Combined, the renovated facility would be approximately 20,210 square feet, nearly double the existing 11,000 square feet.

Fort Atkinson’s fire station will be 42 years old in 2020. Plans for building updates or additions have been moved in and out of the budget for the past 22 years.

An addition expanding the stations’ apparatus bay was built in 2000. The original intent at that time was to do some type of addition and remodeling of other areas of the station, as well. However, by the time all the budget discussions were completed, the only portion of the project that advanced was expanding the apparatus floorspace. Due to budgetary constraints, no floor drains were put in place and the firefighters regularly deal with wet floors in the bays.

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