Donaldsonville to look for state funds to help build new fire station

Donaldsonville officials will ask the Legislature to fill a gap in funding next year so a long-planned city fire station can be built.

Fire Chief Chuck Montero said this week the city has accumulated $1.4 million for the station planned near La. 3089 and Wal-Mart, but early estimates based on square-footage have the new station costing closer to $1.9 million.

“When we started the process years and years ago, that was the target amount,” Montero said of the $1.4 million figure.

“Now with the cost of construction, the cost of construction has gone up, and the target amount is $1.9 million, so we needed something to make up that difference.”

The station will replace the existing city station dating from 1960. Montero said the original estimate for the 9,400-square-foot station about a decade ago was based on construction costs of $150 per square foot.

Costs are closer to $200 per square foot now, he said.

On Wednesday, the City Council backed a resolution asking the Legislature for $600,000 in capital outlay money during the 2014 session, one of two outlay requests adopted in a special morning meeting, Mayor Leroy Sullivan said.

He said Friday is the deadline to submit requests for capital outlay dollars in next year’s session.

Plans for the fire station remain in the early stages, but city officials said they envision a new station with living quarters and six vehicle bays for all the department’s trucks and one extra spot.

“We want to start it (the station) somewhere around the middle part of next year,” Sullivan said. “We hope to be in a position to start.”

The new station will be built on three acres that was part of the parish-owned South Louisiana State Fairgrounds and got into city hands through a land swap with parish government earlier this year.

The money that the city has accumulated for the fire station is derived from a 10-year, 5-mill property tax for fire fighting equipment first approved in 2002, city officials said.

During the first 10 years of the tax, which also helps pay for fire trucks and other equipment, the city was able to put aside $700,000. After voters continued the tax in April 2012, the city issued another $650,000 in bonds backed with the tax, Montero said.

Sullivan and Montero said the city has developed an alternative plan to build a smaller station with fewer vehicle bays if the legislative funding does not come through.

Montero said with the smaller station, the city would have to store some vehicles at the existing fire station.

“It’s not a good option, but it is an option,” he said.

The council also asked the Legislature Wednesday for $4 million to build a new regional sewer pump station and other infrastructure to serve 150 acres behind Wal-Mart along Thibaut Drive. Sullivan said future commercial development, including a possible hotel, is being considered at the site. He said the sewer infrastructure also will improve sewer capacity elsewhere in the city.