AUBURN — The Auburn City Council Thursday night authorized the purchase of a new space for the city's fire department, a concrete step for a project city staff said has been in the works informally for decades.
The council unanimously voted to approve the purchase of 31 Seminary St. from Seminary Commons, LLC for $990,000 as part of the Public Safety Building Project.
An operations, facility and needs assessment for the Auburn fire and police departments in 2015 identified the current structure at 46 North St., which currently houses both departments, as insufficient in a number of areas.
According to the authorizing resolution's accompanying memo, the fire department's space suffers from general structural concerns, and also lacks an emergency operations center and classrooms, as well as a decontamination space.
In earlier meetings, Mayor Michael Quill, a former AFD fire chief, noted that the space has become too small to fit most modern fire trucks, which the city is in some instances mandated to use.
The police department's portion of the structure lacks a sally port for prisoner transfer and a space for impounding and evidence storage, suffers from water infiltration, and needs general capital improvements.
Both sections are also not compliant with the American's With Disabilities Act.
The purchase of the Seminary St. space will act as a new home for the fire department while the police department will move into the vacated space as part of a second phase of the project, City Manager Jeff Dygert said.
City court is also planned to join the police in that space. The state Office of Court Administration has determined the current space at the Historic Post Office is insufficient. A letter from the office in support of the project was entered into the record Thursday.
The new location, Dygert said, was based on a number of factors. One of the most significant, he said, was the property's proximity to downtown and the city's center.
Keeping the fire department close, he said, will allow firefighters to maintain response times and the department's ISO rating, which is often used as a factor to determine insurance rates for structures within the fire district.
Quill said that the new location came ahead of other possible sites once factors such as cost, location, community impact, private plans for parcels, and willingness of owners to sell.
"I really feel that we're on solid ground here," Quill said.
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The entire project is budgeted to cost $10 million, $3.2 million of which comes from state grants, including as part of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative. The city's portion will be paid for through bonding.
Dygert said having such a significant portion of this type of project is extremely rare, and praised city staff and Director of Capital Improvements and Grants Christina Selvek for securing the funds.
"I don't think you're going to have another community in New York state that has secured funding for a facility of this magnitude," Dygert said.
Both councilors and members of the public who spoke Thursday praised the project, particularly what was described as an expected positive impact on the neighborhood.
Willard Memorial Chapel is located right behind the Seminary Street property, and also received funding as a part of the DRI.
Kathy Walker, executive director of the chapel's Community Preservation Committee, the committee had been actively involved in planning for the project. She said she believed the project will not only improve security but the neighborhood as a whole, and hopes to continue to coordinate with the city.
The city is committed to being a good neighbor to the chapel and the rest of the neighborhood, Dygert said, and will soon being conversations to work with residents throughout the project.
Cayuga County Labor Council Bill Andre also thanked the city for prioritizing local labor as a part of the project, a reversal from a previous version of the project.
In other news:
The council also approved a lease agreement with developer Abundant Solar to develop a 7-megawatt-hour solar array on part of the city's old landfill off North Division Street.
The developer will initially pay a $56,876 security deposit plus the first year's rent of $12,000. Annual rent will remain at $12,000 until the array becomes commercial operable, at which point rent paid to the city will rise to $53,000, and ultimately $60,922 in the final year of the 15-year agreement.
Two possible five-year extensions would raise payments to $99,000 for every year after the initial 15. The agreement also provides for a removal bond from the developer to pay for decommissioning costs.