Sleek Fire Station Opens To Much Fanfare
By JACQUE HILBURN-SIMMONS
Tyler firefighters rolled up the bay doors Wednesday to welcome visitors to their newest station that seems to break new ground in fire-house design.
Station 5's cool new concept features a modern, eco-friendly barrel roof design that's a bit more edgy and urban than some of the city's more traditional looking stations.
"This was a long-term design process," Chief Tim Johnson said, expressing appreciation for those who supported the project. "It was a real smooth process."
To commemorate the occasion, delegates were invited to uncouple a fire hose in lieu of cutting a ribbon.
The sleek new industrial look seems to be a real head-turner.
"We have the coolest-looking fire station in town," said District 2 Councilman Darryl Bowdre, who represents the area of the station. "This is unbelievable."
The 8,865-square foot station, designed by Lochner BWR Division, actually cost less to build than a standard station -- about $1.6 million compared to the $3.8 million tally for Stations 7 and 10, officials said.
Watson Commercial Construction, Ltd. carried out the construction, using funding from half-cent sales tax revenue.
Design inspiration comes from the firefighters, the chief said.
Mayor Barbara Bass said one of the best qualities about the new facility, 1532 S. Bennett Ave., is that it's already paid for, in full.
Since establishing the half-cent sales tax in 1995, the city decreased its property tax by 6 percent and paid off all its general-obligation debt, the mayor said.
"What that means to the tax-paying citizen of Tyler is that this fire station was paid for in cash and we have one of the lowest property rates in the state, not to mention our AAA bond rating," Mayor Bass said.
Councilman Ralph Caraway chairs the Half Cent Sales Tax Board and says the city was smart to adopt the payment method to pay for capital improvements.
The new station features an open concept plan with lots of windows, wide corridors and special non-skid concrete flooring that can withstand heavy use and is easy to clean.
The large open kitchen features a commercial cook stove, expansive counters, roomy locker areas, multiple pantries and plenty of dark wooden cabinets.
Off the kitchen, there is a type of "man cave," a covered patio and grill, surrounded by a picket fence for security.
Certain construction elections, metal piping and sections of ventilation, are left exposed to complement the industrial feel.
The exterior facade features plenty of stone and an earthy colored insulated finish, which is mixed with cement and applied by trowel rather than hammer.
The fire house has more going for it than good looks, the chief said.
The new station replaces Fire Station 5, built in 1985 at 2815 Frankston Highway in the St. Louis area, and takes advantage of the anticipated completion of Earl Campbell Parkway to help reduce response times and lower insurance premiums.
Assistant Chief David Schlottach said earlier the building is designed to be super stingy on electricity usage, thereby saving money on utility bills.
"This should be the most energy efficient station that we've got," he said. "I'm not sure there's another station like it in Texas, I think it's one of the best -- I'd put it up against anybody's."
The facility is not certified as green construction, but it includes many features that are intended to be environmentally friendly, such as heavy insulation and jumbo-sized fans.
Officials said the station's anticipated completion fulfills an earlier six-year plan to build Station 10, now at 2502 Old Omen Road, and relocate new Station 7 to its current site, 344 Troup Highway.
Former Councilman Ralph Sanders said big plans are in store for the old station back at 2815 Frankston Highway.
"We don't have a community center in District 2 to serve the youth and the elderly," he said. "It's (old station) a good building and we can put it to good use."