GONZALES — The Prairieville Fire Department is moving forward with a second new fire station in two years as the suburban department tries to keep up with one of Ascension Parish’s fastest-growing areas.
Fire Chief Mark Stewart said Thursday that fire officials hope construction can start later this year on the station, which will be in the northern corner of Ascension near the intersection of Bluff and Alligator Bayou roads and west of Interstate 10.
The new station will have two large vehicle bays and the ability to house up to eight firefighters, though the station will probably have two to four firefighters initially, Stewart said.
The Fire Department has budgeted $1.54 million for construction.
The Parish Council took an early step Thursday during back-to-back meetings in Gonzales to start the project by approving a contract for Domain Architecture.
Stewart said the architectural firm already created a standard station design for the department, known as Ascension Parish Fire Protection District No. 3, and fire officials wanted to remain with the firm for the second station.
The standard design was used for the $1.34 million, 7,000-square-foot Station 33 on Duplessis Road just west of Airline Highway that opened in the first half of 2014. The station is in the southern part of Fire District No. 3’s 35-square-mile service area, which encompasses much of Prairieville and Dutchtown and has more than 33,000 people.
The new Station 34 would be located roughly in the opposite corner of Fire District No. 3 and bring the number of stations to five.
The unopposed council vote and an earlier Finance Committee vote Thursday evening allowed the department to use Domain Architecture without a request for proposals.
Councilwoman Teri Casso, chairwoman of the Finance Committee, said she appreciated the addition of another station that would help residents in her Council District 8.
“I know it’s going to be a beautiful fire station there that will provide much-needed fire protection for that district, as well as EMS,” Casso said.
In an interview before the meetings Thursday, Stewart said fire officials had hoped to finish the new station by end of 2015. But he said early legal questions about whether the district could hire Domain Architecture without a request for proposals slowed the timeline until parish government officials could verify doing so was appropriate.
Stewart said though the department has a standard design, Domain still will have to adjust that design for the site.
Parish government bought the 1.72-acre Bluff Road site in late December 2011 for $147,000 on behalf of the Fire District.
Stewart said 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.
In November, voters in Fire District No. 3 rejected a proposal to renew one of the district’s revenue sources, parcel fees on homes and businesses, though voters did renew one of two 10-year, 10-mill property taxes. The other millage was not on the ballot.
Stewart said the loss of the fees — which would have generated $470,000 annually — has not affected funding for the new Bluff Road station.
But he said that may happen in the future as the department of 30 paid firefighters must add manpower and equipment and do maintenance once new stations are built.
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