Design contracts approved to build Port Arthur Fire Department stations that meet modern needs

Published 12:40 am Thursday, November 10, 2022

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The health and safety of Port Arthur firefighters has been further guaranteed after City Council this week approved a contract with a College Station-based architectural firm to design and help reconstruct two fire stations.

Council members on Tuesday approved an agreement with Brown Reynolds Watkins Architects, Inc. to enter the design phase of fire stations No. 2 and No. 3, after it was discussed in December that both — as well as others — are no longer compliant with certain health and safety guidelines.

Station No. 2, located at 1201 Grannis Ave., was built in 1971 and is approximately 5,600 square feet. Station No. 3, located at 2232 Canal Street, was constructed in 1961 and is the same size as No. 2.

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Fire Chief Greg Benson said there are health and safety concerns at both stations.

“As an example, all fire stations should have exhaust systems in there that ventilate the diesel exhaust,” he said. “None of our current stations have those.”

And the bays in which the trucks are stored are no longer large enough to comfortably fit engines, as they’ve grown in size while the buildings have not.

“One of the things we’ve already discussed is the station being three-bay double deep,” Benson said, adding they also need space to store other items such as boats.

“Another issue to be addressed is a place to put equipment following a fire, so chemicals do not enter the air circulating system inside the stations,” he said. “The toxic products that come out of a fire now, when you bring your gear back, your (personal protective equipment) should be stored in a room that’s secured but also ventilated so you don’t get high levels of stuff built up and someone walks in and gets exposed.

“It needs to be addressed because by not having our current stations (in compliance), that puts all the firefighters’ health and safety at risk, but it also puts a liability on the city.”

Other plans considered for the two new fire stations, which will be designed to accommodate the next 20-30 years, include a community room, a space for EMS or police to work and a more gender-appropriate environment.

While the department currently does not have a female firefighter, they have in the past and expect to have them in the future. The seven stations in the city do not have separated restrooms.

And an additional request includes a new radio system that alerts firefighters by intercom, but also by phone app and in-house digital displays.

In addition, Benson said, the call for service immediately activates a device that opens the bay doors, cutting down response time. The multiple means of notification also provide backup should the primary communication system fail.

The contract to enter into the design phase with Brown Reynolds Watkins Architects, Inc. for station No. 2 was approved at up to $586,100, and an additional contract for Station 3 was approved at $740,700.

Benson said station No. 3 will be worked on first, as the land has already been acquired from the Port Arthur School District. The location at Ray Street and 63rd Street was formerly a school parking lot.

The property for station No. 3 has not yet been acquired.

While councilmembers did not comment on the contracts this week, Mayor Pro Tem Ingrid Holmes addressed the matter when it went before the group in December.

“I appreciate your consideration and staff’s consideration to create those fire stations to be more than just fire stations,” she said. “And I appreciate the idea of partnering and collaborating with our private ambulance companies.”