River City Hall remains the strongest location for an upgraded downtown fire station, said Durango Fire Protection District Chief Hal Doughty, even if the Durango Police Department won’t be housed under the same roof.
Doughty and José Madrigal, city manager, said on Thursday that costs for a joint fire and police station exceeded expectations, reaching the $50 million mark, which concerned both officials who were looking at accommodations of such facilities near existing businesses and city amenities, such as the nearby Iris Park.
“We really took a pause and really decided to say at this point we felt comfortable coming to both boards (City Council and the DFPD board) and saying that we didn’t find this was going to be feasible,” Madrigal said.
He said a joint police and fire facility could have physically fit at the location, but not without disruption to existing organizations such as Back Country Experience.
The fire district maintains that River City Hall, located at 1235 Camino del Rio, where Station 2 is currently located, and from which the fire district has served Durango for over 40 years, is still the best location for a new and improved fire station because of its access to potential calls for services in downtown Durango.
Doughty said ideas for the River City Hall site have evolved over time. And he addressed previous attempts by the fire district to relocate, saying the fire district needs to make moves.
“It makes a great deal of sense for us to stop putting ourselves in the situation where we feel like we’ve got to fight with the community to get the best thing done and just move forward with this acceptable site,” he said.
He said the Durango School District 9-R Administration Building, which the fire district purchased in December 2021, would work as a downtown fire station only if it included Durango Police Department, because the facility is too large to justify use by the fire district alone.
The idea of a joint police and fire station petered out, the city announced in a news release on Jan. 13.
“Getting this project done at this point is more important to us than continuing down the pathway where we’re just searching and searching and searching,” Doughty said. “… Our absolute intention is to get working on replacing our station so people are safe, they can work and can be effective.”
“In 1994, there was a master facility plan that was conducted for the city that did identify that 9-R property for a city hall complex,” Madrigal said. “... From a city staff perspective (we) started thinking, maybe this is something we could make work.”
He said conditions of the building are still unknown, and he was hesitant to entertain the idea when he was first informed of it. But the city has police and other office needs, and it’s worth exploring the former 9-R administration building’s potential.