Construction of the new Stock Island fire station could begin as early as October as the long-awaited $3 million project went out to bid on Friday.
The county also wrapped up a road-abandonment plan for a small part of MacDonald Avenue, where the county bought four lots surrounding the current station at the corner of MacDonald and Maloney avenues, said Assistant County Attorney Nat Cassel.
"We got permission from all the adjacent landowners last month to do that, so now we can put those four parcels together," Cassel said. "The little pie-shaped piece of land where the station is now just wasn't big enough."
The four parcels that total 25,000 square feet had a projected cost of $675,000, but the county was able to pick them up for $650,000, Cassel said. The space was needed for the new facility that is expected to look and cost the same as the station on Key Deer Boulevard on Big Pine Key, said Monroe County Fire Rescue Chief Jim Callahan.
The Big Pine Key Fire Station cost $3.2 million. The county has set aside about $4 million for the Stock Island project.
The bid process will close in September and a construction company is expected to be chosen at the Oct. 17 County Commission meeting in Key West.
"I'm hoping it will cost less than $3 million, but we'll see," said County Commissioner Kim Wigington. "We've been able to save some money by using the same plans and that makes sense."
County staff has reviewed several properties on Stock Island in recent years, but none worked out due to size, location or cost. Callahan said expanding the current site is the best option, as having a station just off U.S. 1 would allow firefighters to quickly respond to calls on Stock Island, Key Haven, Big Coppitt Key and the city of Key West, if needed.
The current station location allows trucks to easily access the north and south side of Stock Island, Callahan said. The station was formerly a volunteer operation in the 1970s and 1980s, but now houses four full-time firefighters, a fire engine and a rescue truck, Callahan said.
"I've personally been working on this project for three years," Callahan said. "It's been in the hopper for a long time. What's there now is not much more than an old wooden shed that's been added on to a couple of times over the years."
Wigington has made the new station a point of her four-year tenure on the board and she joked at the recent commission meeting Wednesday in Key Largo that she will be the first to arrive with a shovel. Wigington recently announced she will not seek reelection.
"I promised I would get it done before I left if I have to dig the hole myself," she said, laughing.