The city of Durango and the Durango Fire Protection District have approved a memorandum of understanding to explore using the River City Hall site as a downtown fire station.
The MOU stipulates that the city and fire district have bimonthly meetings to review negotiations, ask questions and provide the public with updates simultaneously.
Durango City Manager José Madrigal said the city and fire district board are trying to “check all the boxes” through the memorandum to keep the public and both public entities in the know about how negotiations are progressing. During the negotiations, DPFD agreed not to pursue any land-use applications, construction plans or submittals for a downtown fire station at the Durango School District 9-R Administration Building.
According to the MOU, the city and the fire department will also initiate design ideas and gather public input about conceptual site plans for a redeveloped fire station at River City Hall.
Madrigal said the MOU allows the city and the fire district one year to examine River City Hall with the ability for either party to terminate the agreement with a 45-day written notice. In order to back out of the memorandum within 14 days of written notification, the fire district and City Council must host a joint meeting to look at options to remedy any possible impasses.
DFPD Chief Hal Doughty said he is encouraged by the MOU. He said one potential problem with the River City Hall site is the floodplain, and the fire district must determine its ability to construct a facility “that could make it through a 100-year flood and still remain functional and keep going.”
He said a previous concern also involved radioactive mine tailings at the site, but after an environmental study done by the city, that might not present as large of an issue as previously anticipated.
But the first items that need to be figured out between the fire district and the city are a timeline and making sure the city receives fair-market value for the River City Hall property, whether it is leased, sold or transferred to the fire district, and ensuring the fire district recoups what it paid on the 9-R Administration Building.
Other items to address as the city and the fire district explore their options include designing a facility that is large enough to accommodate fire district equipment and making sure the new station fits in aesthetically with the downtown area, Doughty said.
He remains interested in exploring the possibility of sharing a building with the Durango Police Department.
“We’ve looked for the last six years and (have been) unable to find a suitable site,” he said. Now, DPFD has “hooks out in two different locations that could potentially replace our downtown fire and police stations.”
Doughty said what happens to the 9-R Administration Building remains in question. The fire district has offered to allow the school district use Big Picture High School for another school year and has allowed school administration to continue working from the historic 9-R building.
“And so we’ve got a good use still going,” Doughty said. “The school property is going to be continued to be used … for at least another school year. And we’re going to work really hard with the city to see if we can make this work. And if we can, great. And if we can’t, we’ll focus sights back to the school property.”