Plans to expand Key West Fire Department's footprint in town, both figuratively and literally, are moving ahead as the walls are up at the new Fire Station 2 in Old Town. Officials say firefighters should be able to move into the new building by December.
Contractors have erected the concrete shell at the new $5.9 million, two-story, three-bay station at Simonton and Angela streets. On Thursday, crews were surveying the lot in effort to begin installing electrical and plumbing systems.
Chief David Fraga and Division Chief Michael Davila were walking the grounds and reviewing progress. Neither contained their excitement in saying goodbye to the existing 1960s-era station, adjacent to the former city hall complex that crews have long nicknamed "the dungeon."
The old station has mold issues, a leaky roof, flaking paint and crews have to use sandbags to keep rainwater out of doorways and bays. Living quarters are sparse.
"The guys are excited," Fraga said. "It's like going from the outhouse to the penthouse."
There have been some minor tweaks to the design since crews broke ground in October, primarily the addition of an elevator to comply with federal handicap access laws, Fraga said, but mostly the project is on schedule.
The new station constitutes phase one of the overall project. The city also plans to demolish the old station and the old city hall. Phase two will include a 70-spot parking lot, public restrooms and a park with a fountain near the station. The final plan was given unanimous final approval in February 2013 by the city commission.
The fire station has had to compete with a host of other city building projects for attention and funding, namely the new city hall, that will come out of a renovated Glynn Archer Elementary School building.
The new station, which has been 17 years in the making, was designed to hold an ambulance, too. Initially, that was included as a nod to the future, but that future is now given that the city commission has voted to have the fire department take over ambulance services in 12 months.
"The three bay was planned with the distinct possibility for ambulance response," Fraga said.
The second floor will be nearly entirely made up of housing and crew quarters.
Key West's largest fire station on North Roosevelt Boulevard is known as "central," or Station 1, and a third standalone station is at the corner of Flagler Avenue and Kennedy Drive, known as Station 3.
Key West joins the county in replenishing its fire stations, a trend that began in 2009 when the $3.2 million Big Pine Key station was completed.
The county recently completed the new $3.5 million Stock Island Fire Station 8 on the four lots surrounding the current station at the corner of MacDonald and Maloney avenues.
Also, a $1.84 million renovation of the station on Conch Key was completed last year.