Construction Estimates Delay Meridian Fire Station

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Meridian Twp., Mich. (WILX) It's been months now since Meridian Township firefighters moved into a temporary station off of Okemos Rd., but it still feels less than ideal for the personnel inside.

"It doesn't feel like it's completely our space," said Justin Adair, a firefighter and paramedic. "Sometimes there are other activities going on and we have to share the space."

So with Adair and others so excited to move into a permanent, state-of-the-art home, you can imagine their disappointment when they learned it may take another 6-8 months to move in.

"We were hoping to finished by now, not this far behind schedule," said Adair. "It is a little frustrating because this is something that we've worked very hard to get this bond proposal passed and it's been almost two years now."

That $3.5 million bond proposal was approved by voters in November 2012. Since then, there have been multiple delays and setbacks, namely pressure and lawsuits from residents who say living across the street from a fire station would decrease their property values and quality of life.

Meridian Township has cleared space to break ground on its new site and the courts have so far upheld its actions. But now manager Frank Walsh says the township must regroup after estimates for the project came in about $1 million over budget.

"It's a minor setback that the bids came in, but I also say to those people that have caused the delays, part of the reason that we're bidding in the summer and having high bids is because of the delays that we've had," he said. "The fact is we'll have a new central fire station in 2015. That hasn't changed."

Walsh says the township will take 90 days to work on downsizing the proposed building, possibly shedding 5,000 square feet. Walsh says a community room may be on the chopping block and the size of the proposed parking lot, exercise facility, training room and office space are in question.

"There's a lot of variables that we're going to look at," he said. "But I can assure the community of one thing: we're going to look at this with wide open eyes and we're going to make sure when we put this together, the budget comes in less than $3.5 million. That's a commitment we will make to our residents."

Some residents aren't surprised the township came in over budget, namely Mike Anderson, who lives in the Autumn Park Condominiums that were at the center of lawsuits against the township.

"I don't think they had any idea what this was going to cost and the whole idea of $3.5 million for a replacement fire station is ridiculous anyways," he said. "What replacement station needs a 61-car parking lot?"

Anderson says the township should start from scratch, go back to the voters and do everything over again "the right way."

He says he's "disgusted" with the politics of the past two years and faults the township board for moving quickly and not following procedure.

"If they hadn't lied to the voters from the get-go, the station would be done by now," he said. "They asked for $3.5 million to replace a two-bay fire station. They didn't tell the voters it was going to turn into this mega complex."

A judge ruled against the Autumn Park Condominiums in May, but a case is pending in the State Court of Appeals.

But Frank Walsh is confident the fire station will get done in a timely manner, and most importantly, under budget.

"We're going to be fine," he said. "It's a minor setback and I don't think we're the first community in Michigan to bid something out and have the bids higher than we expected.

"Happens all the time."

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