Ascension Finance Committee recommends apparent low bid on new fire station on Bluff Road at Alligator Bayou Road _lowres

Advocate Staff Photo by David J. Mitchell -- A car turns from Alligator Bayou Road onto Bluff Road Monday afternoon in Ascension Parish in front of the future site of a new fire station for the Prairieville Fire Department. An Ascension Parish Council committee backed the low bid of $1.44 million on Monday night. The fire department, which is supported with parish sales tax and millage revenues, has been adding or renovating stations the past few years to keep up with growth in the northern end of Ascension.

A fifth fire station for the Prairieville Fire Department took a important step toward reality Monday when a key Ascension Parish committee gave its blessing to the project’s contractor.

Fire officials are eyeing a new station at the southwestern corner of Bluff Road and Alligator Bayou Road just west of Interstate 10.

The suburban department in northern Ascension is trying to keep up with growth in the parish’s fast-growing region.

For the past few years, fire officials have been building or renovating fire stations in their 35-square-mile service area, which includes Prairieville and Dutchtown.

Eight companies bid on the future Station 34 on Bluff Road in the northwest corner of the service area. Offers ranged from the low bid of $1.443 million to $1.9 million. ANR Construction submitted the apparent low bid the committee backed Monday.

Fire Chief Mark Stewart said after the vote Monday he hopes that once the contract is finalized, work can start as soon as possible.

He said the architects have already met with the contractors and believe ANR Construction can get the job done for the amount that was bid. The fire department had previously budgeted $1.54 million for the station.

“I hope to be scratching dirt over there soon,” Stewart said.

Work is expect to take about a year to finish once it begins, he said.

The station is modeled on the department’s 7,000-square-foot station on Duplessis Road off Airline Highway. That station, which cost about $1.34 million to build, was finished in the first half of 2014.

The new station will sit on a 1.72 acres across from Fountain Hill subdivision. The fire department bought the wooded property in 2011. A sign already marks the new station’s expected arrival.

Stewart said the main entrance will be on Bluff Road while a secondary return entrance will be on Alligator Bayou Road.

He added the station will start out with two paid firefighters but the department plans on hiring more firefighters to improve efficiency.

A 2012 fire insurance rating by the Property Insurance Association of Louisiana recommended stations in the Duplessis area, in the Bluff Road area and two more locations, fire officials have said.

But Stewart said continued population growth in Ascension and coming changes in the way fire insurance ratings are calculated have the potential to change that estimate.

The full Parish Council must still ratify the low bid from ANR Construction, but the entire council sits on the Finance Committee.

Support for the bid Monday was unopposed with only Councilwoman Teri Casso not voting. As committee chairwoman, she does not vote unless to break a tie.

Follow David J. Mitchell on Twitter @NewsieDave.