Design bids support $5 million firehouse estimate

Port officials say proposals indicate that cost of new westside station won’t exceed initial projections

PORT WASHINGTON OFFICIALS are considering proposals from four firms that want to design a new firehouse at the corner of Highway 33 and Jackson Road, but have delayed action on proposals from companies to design renovations to the current fire station. Press file photo
Ozaukee Press staff

After reviewing bids from firms interested in designing a new fire station for the City of Port Washington, officials said it looks like a new station can be built for the $5 million estimate.

“I definitely think it will be no more than that,” Fire Chief Mark Mitchell said Tuesday. “I think we’ll come in and get a good facility for under $5 million.”

Mitchell, who said many of the cost estimates are based on square footage, said he has talked to other fire chiefs and, given a competitive bidding environment, believes the cost could come in even lower.

Jim Biever — a member of the Police and Fire Commission who is also a member of the fire station taskforce and a subcommittee reviewing bids for the design work — told the commission Monday that the companies set their fees at between 5.5% and 7% of the construction cost, and the estimated cost of the station was between $4.25 million and $5 million. 

“I find that to be encouraging,” he said.

The city sent out requests for design proposals to nine firms, and seven responded. Of those, the subcommittee recommended four firms to the commission.

Commission members said they had hoped to receive a few more bids, but Mitchell noted that one firm told him that the number of school referendums that were approved in the past year is keeping many companies busy.

The proposals that were submitted “hit the marks” for many of the things the city is seeking, Mitchell said, but the subcommittee has questions on each of the proposals.

“No one was perfect,” Biever said.

For example, Five Bugles Design has the most experience and was ranked the highest by the subcommittee, but the firm is based in Eau Claire, leading members to question if they will have someone on site whenever there’s an issue.

Kueny Architects of Pleasant Prairie has only eight employees on staff, he said, and some members wondered if that’s enough people to do the job.

SEH of Milwaukee has 800 employees but sends its major engineering work out to other firms, Biever said, and Zimmerman of Milwaukee has a staff of 95 and has designed numerous buildings, but hasn’t built a firehouse since 2017.

The request for proposals specifies that the new station be built on three to five acres of the former Schanen farm on Highway 33, which is owned by the city, “or similar property in the general vicinity.”

The proposed station should be 15,000 to 20,000 square feet and include six drive-through apparatus bays, a training area, eight dorm rooms, male and female locker facilities, a secure emergency medical services supply room, a workout facility, kitchen and lounge, conference room and a training or meeting room that could double as a community room.

Mitchell noted that many of the proposals seemed to be almost boilerplate, adding that additional interviews are needed to see how the firms would approach the Port project.

“It’s not until you get into an interview that it gets honed down to what we want to see,” he said.

The commission agreed to have the subcommittee conduct interviews with the four finalists — Five Bugles Design, Kueny Architects,  SEH and Zimmerman. “You have the questions,” commission member Patty Ruth said. “That’s the group I want to delve into it.”

  These interviews will be open to the public, members said, and they will have the opportunity to ask questions as well.

The subcommittee is then to propose two finalists to the commission, which will review them and submit one or both to the Common Council.

The city also reviewed proposals from firms seeking to renovate the current firehouse, but took no action on these.

The fees were generally higher than those for the new fire station, Biever said, noting that the firms are “afraid they’re going to get into a can of worms” when renovating an old structure.

The proposals were vague, Mitchell added, noting that the city’s request for proposals was also fairly vague.

Biever said the subcommittee thought that the city should wait until after the new station is built and then rebid the renovations, perhaps adding local firms to the bidding list.


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