The city of Durango and Durango Fire Protection District are inching forward with plans for a proposed police/fire station at the River City Hall site, although nothing yet is set in stone.
A number of public meetings, the first scheduled for some time in November, to review progress of station designs were highlighted in a timeline shared Tuesday by DHM Design, the city and the fire district’s design partner, in a joint study session.
Preliminary work between DFPD and the city on a police and fire station project continues, but whether the station is ultimately built at River City Hall won’t be determined until more details, such as project costs, feasibility and financing are reviewed by City Council and the fire district board of directors, said José Madrigal, city manager.
He said the city and the fire district expect to have project cost estimates ready for presentation in January, when two public meetings are scheduled. The first public meeting is an architectural open house planned for early January.
The second meeting is a City Council meeting on Jan. 19 when a budget discussion and approval of a schematic plan are scheduled in addition to a presentation of the project master plan and the opportunity for community input, according to a timeline released Tuesday.
Madrigal said January marks a critical time for the project because that is the point when the city will start getting hard information and cost figures that could determine whether the proposed River City Hall station is pursued.
Parallel to the design phase is the question of where to relocate the Durango Community Development Department, which currently occupies River City Hall. Moving Community Development will incur more costs to the city which will need to be considered, he said.
Although DFPD owns the Durango School District 9-R administration building, which it purchased in December with plans to convert to a new downtown fire station, the Big Picture High School building attached to it could serve as a new location for Community Development, Madrigal said.
Assuming City Council and the fire district board agree to move forward with the fire station after verifying the construction budget in January, focus will shift to finding the ideal way to fund the project, he said.
Hal Doughty, fire chief for DFPD, said project funding could involve placing a bond question on the November 2023 ballot, grant opportunities, and/or combination of the station project with Durango Transit’s Camino del Rio underpass project, as possible funding and cost-saving opportunities.
If all goes according to plan, the city and the fire district will have identified a funding source or sources by May or June, Madrigal said.
Design development should also be fully completed within that time, according to the timeline discussed Tuesday.
The first public meeting planned for November will concern results of a feasibility study and will serve as a general introduction to the project for the public, Ann Christensen, managing principal at DHM Design, said at Tuesday’s study session.
Other design components include a traffic impact study already underway and expected to be completed by the end of the year; a general contractor could be identified as early as March; and construction documents are projected to be completed by July or August, 2023, according to the project timeline.
The city is working on a website that Durango residents and River City Hall area stakeholders would be able to access to keep up to date on project information, including the timeline discussed on Tuesday, information from traffic and feasibility studies, and background information from DFPD about the need for an updated fire station, Christensen said.
One of the most common questions Christensen hears is, “Why do we need a new fire station downtown?” she said. A “rapid expansion of call volume” in the downtown area has heightened the need for a new facility, she said.
At Durango Chamber of Commerce’s fall Eggs & Issues breakfast last year, Doughty said the section of town serviced by DFPD Station 2 at River City Hall receives about 1,600 calls a year and the fire district is mandated by its insurance provider to have a fire station every five miles.
The current station at River City Hall is underequipped to service so many calls, he said. Further, the fire station building is outdated and doesn’t meet the district’s own fire codes; ideally, the whole River City Hall building would be torn down for a new multistory station to be built, he said Tuesday.
The informational website will launch later this month and be regularly updated with project progress, Christensen said.