Discussion has been tabled until the next town council meeting on awarding a $207,675 contract to design a $5 million Queen Creek Fire and Medical District training center.
Awarding the standard design professional services contract with Perlman Architects of Arizona Inc. was tabled in a 4-3 vote on Oct. 7, with Councilmembers Robin Benning, Jeff Brown and Dawn Oliphant dissenting. On the dais were Mayor Gail Barney and Councilmembers Jake Hoffman, Mr. Benning and Emilena Turley. Meeting by WebEx were Vice Mayor Julia Wheatley and Councilmembers Mr. Brown and Ms. Oliphant.
“I vote no because I don’t understand or see the need personally to delay this,” Councilmember Brown said. “This is an item that we’ve been working on for the better part of the year. There’s certainly been, in my mind --- I don’t begrudge any other council member --- but in my mind there’s been ample opportunity to ask and get all questions answered. I’m not sure why the delay or the stall, but I vote no and I appreciate you providing me the opportunity to explain,” he said when voting.
“We have discussed this. We have discussed it several times and remind the council members that at the time we previously discussed this it was explained that the opportunity to use the Gilbert fire training facility is not available to us. That’s why we needed our own training facility,” Councilmember Benning said. “We’re not trying to build an enormous campus such as what Gilbert or Chandler has; however, I feel strongly that we should provide the necessary skills and resource center for our firemen and women ... so they can conduct their daily skills and classroom education. And I don’t really see the purpose of delaying, I feel like this is just rehashing, so I am voting no,” he said.
“I vote no for similar reasons to Councilmember Benning, Councilmember Brown,” Councilmember Oliphant said.
The training center for the southeast corner of 220th Street and Ryan Road is included in the fiscal year 2020-21 adopted budget with a total project budget of $5,025,000.
Construction of the resource/skills center building addresses three critical areas needed for the Queen Creek Fire and Medical Department, according to a memo to the council from Public Works Director Troy White.
It is to have an area dedicated to conduct daily skills and classroom education for firefighters, two fire apparatus storage bays to store spare reserve fire apparatus and keep these pieces of equipment indoors and protected from environmental concerns, and the building is to provide increased storage space and maintenance areas, he said.
Awarding the design contract had been in a consent agenda with other items but was pulled by Councilmember Hoffman for discussion and a separate vote.
“This resource center has come up and there were a number of concerns with it when it did the last time and I don’t feel that those concerns have been --- and questions --- you know, it’s not necessarily concerns, but I don’t feel that they have been totally answered,” he said.
“Some of the answers that have come up have been seemingly less than exhaustive in terms of looking at other options. We also, obviously, are in the middle of some tremendous economic uncertainty given the unfortunate situation we are in with COVID, as so this is one of those ones that ... it’s incumbent upon us to ensure that we not only have all of the information, but that we’re in the best of times and to be able to pull the trigger on what are seemingly large projects,” Councilmember Hoffman said.
He made a motion to table the item until all of the council members’ questions are answered and bring it back in a few months.
“One, we have a better understanding of the true needs, the use of the existing resources, our existing classrooms; also options like the IGA with the brand new Gilbert fire resource center, which will be opening very shortly, and then also a better understanding of the actual economic impact,” he said.
Mayor Barney asked town staff members if it was a time-sensitive issue.
A dedicated training center is needed, Queen Creek Fire Chief Vance Gray said to the council.
“The first place I’ll start with, the need --- is there a strong need right now? I point to the aspect of daily training, which our crews are required --- each firefighter is required --- to obtain 60 hours per quarter of fire-specific training. Today, every single one of our firefighters meets that criteria, but the way I’ll frame this is talking about quantity vs quality of training,” he said.
“If a fire captain takes his or her fire crew out into the apparatus bay and takes an hour or two of time to go over extrication equipment or the jaws-of-life, it’s a lecture so to speak of that captain talking about ‘Here’s how you use the tool.’ There might be some hands-on that goes on with that tool specifically while it’s in the apparatus bay or behind the fire station, but the best training that can be obtained for our firefighters in these examples is to have a location or venue where we can actually put these firefighters in that specific type of scenario,” he said.
With a fire resource and skills center building, education on the use of a jaws-of-life tool could be with vehicles as props, Chief Gray said.
“Sounds to me like the answer would be the sooner the better, but I don’t mind having it tabled for a short period of time like a council meeting, but I don’t want to have it be postponed indefinitely, waiting for something else to happen, so that’s my thought process,” Mayor Barney said.
When asked by the mayor if postponing it to the next council meeting would put undo pressure on it, Chief Gray said it would not.
Councilman Hoffman amended his motion to have it brought back to the next council meeting and Councilmember Turley seconded the motion.
The next Town Council meeting is 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 21, in the Community Chambers, 20727 E. Civic Parkway.