It’s been a long road to bring Fire Station Three from a dream to a reality. A presentation Monday evening updated the community on the project and set a new timeline for its completion.
If you’ve been driving down Park Road over the past year, you more than likely have noticed the construction site that seems to have rarely evolved despite the months of work.
Nestled near the Mike E. Sansone Community Park the site is set to become the location for Fire Station Three. However, a slew of problems bumped back the completion date from June 2019 to April 2020.
During Monday night’s commission meeting, City Manager Bill McDaniel updated the community on the details of the project as he said many people have inquired as to what was going on at the location.
West Construction, Inc. was initially awarded the contract to tackle the project. Then issues like supply shortages, which they had to wait quite a while on to obtain the red block needed for the original design, and a lack of skilled construction workers in the industry led to both a wait and an increased budget for the project.
Then the City learned West Construction was having internal issues of its own. The men on the ground were not up to par. West Construction went through three superintendents and two project managers during this project alone, which led to several delays.
While every issue addressed was promptly taken care of, the slow pace has set everyone on edge. Quality has never been the issue, McDaniel said, but promptness has so far eluded the project.
“The quality of the job has been the most important factor to us,” McDaniel said. “It was quite obvious we were not going to be able to control the timeline with the problems that West was running into with subcontractors and more particularly with some of the management team they had in place. But quality has remained paramount in our focus, and I have to say they have been quick to address every item that has been brought to their attention to the point of even having to completely redo some elements of the work that had been done to ensure it was done correctly.”
Matthew West, the Vice President of West Construction, attended the meeting Monday night and expressed his dedication toward moving along at a steady pace. He promised the issues addressed had been dealt with and said he believed they had rounded the corner and were ready to present a high quality, top-of-the-line product for the city.
Following the presentation was a long beat of silence as commissioners seemed to tensely accept the reality that there was still a long journey ahead. A few asked West a handful of questions and overall, as he explained his company’s plans going forward and insisted he was dedicated to making sure they went full steam ahead, they seemed content with his answers.
“I’ve used this metaphor with some of you in our conversations,” McDaniel said. “It strikes me very much that West has gotten into a situation where they’re just like an army in a field and they’ve overextended their lines in logistics. I think they’ve found they had the wrong generals on the ground, so to speak, and they have taken steps to correct that. And in my regular weekly briefings with staff on this project, it had been made very clear to me that the management team that is currently involved has really turned this around and that we are seeing a much different work product and, quite frankly, a much better attitude toward the entire project. So I’m looking forward to it being done on the schedule that Mr. West is stating.”
Time is of the essence. The city has already allocated funds in its current fiscal year budget to hire new firefighters to staff the building. Everything is in place to add a state-of-the-art facility to the Plant City Fire Rescue’s amenities.
McDaniel confirmed that when hiring West Construction, Inc., the city did extensive research into its background and found it came highly recommended.
Their impeccable reputation and realistic plan for the site was one of the many reasons the city selected them as leads for the project.
If West is true to his word, real progress will be made at the facility in a handful of months. But the question remains: will the project actually be completed on time?
“I would say I’m guardedly optimistic,” McDaniel said. “It’s not that they’re doing a bad job — the quality of the job is exactly what we hoped for — they’re just doing the job very slowly. They had a lot of challenges… but they seem to have rounded the corner.”