Fire District Interested in Buying 9-R Admin Building

8/5/2021

Chief Hal Doughty says the Durango Fire Protection District has been looking for five years to find a more appropriate site for its downtown fire station than at River City Hall. The 9-R Administration Building and adjacent property might just fit the bill. Sponsored by FASTSIGNS and 2180 Lighting and Design

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Will a old high school building and adjacent Big Picture High School on 12th Street become the new Downtown Fire Station? You're watching the Local News Network, brought to you by Fast Signs of Durango and 2180 Lighting & Design. The Durango Fire Protection District and Durango School District 9R have entered into negotiations to sell 9R's administration building and Big Picture High School for a new fire station on 12th street. The fire station moved to River City Hall in 1983 after the City of Durango purchased the old La Plata Electric Association office building and warehouse. The move was supposed to be temporary. Now 40 years later, DFD Fire Chief, Hal Doughty says the building is too small and outdated to handle the emergency response demands placed on the station. The Downtown Station currently responds to 64% of all emergency calls in the Fire Protection District. More than half those calls are located between College Drive and 12th Street and between the River and 3rd Avenue.

So we've known for quite some time that we needed to make a change and we've been looking. Across the last five years, we've looked at 19 individual properties or combinations of properties that we thought might be able to house us. Unlike the way that the police department is, where they can be out and on patrol, we have to serve from a location. We can't be out just driving around, patrolling in the big trucks that we have. And so it's critical for us to be in the downtown core.

In the proposal that the Fire District submitted to the school board, Doughty said that the district would convert the old high school into administrative offices and a training facility, while preserving the building's historic character. The Big Picture High School building will be razed to make way for a five bay emergency vehicle garage with second story living quarters for a 24-hour emergency response crew. Trucks and ambulances would exit onto 12th Street and return via 13th Street. Sale of the old high school has been in the works since 2018 when a citizen's committee updated the district's facilities master plan and recommended its sale because of the property's value and the expense of maintaining a hundred year old building. The district also promised to sell the building when it asked voters last November to reissue bonds for $90 million in safety improvements, technology, and construction and renovation projects. Voters approved the measure by a 70% margin. Now the school board is making good on its promise, although it has been criticized for keeping negotiations for the property in executive session. State law however, allows public entities to negotiate real estate transactions behind closed doors.

As with any real estate transaction, typically you'll have negotiations done in a private situation to protect the confidentiality of those negotiations and to ensure that you can get the best offer possible. We are trying our best to make sure that we have enough funding to do the things that we need to do, which means that our focus is on achieving the best bid with the best use for the building.

Gallagher added that one of the criteria used to select a buyer was whether the building would remain a public asset.

Our board really wanted to ensure that this gem in our community, this public asset, they had a really heavy heart and wanted to make sure that the building was going to be used in the best way possible. So they had many things on their mind as they were deliberating the offers that were received on to ultimately come up with moving forward with the Fire District.

We see a huge opportunity to continue being a partner with the community. There's a wonderful auditorium in this building. There's a great meeting room space. And making some of that available for public use to continue being an asset to the community we think is a great deal. While the two entities work towards a purchase agreement, the school district simultaneously is working with the City of Durango to purchase or swap other city property for Buckley Park. The City Council says it plans to preserve the parcel as open space. The school district is expected to make a decision about the Fire District purchase agreement in August. The Buckley Park Deal is pending. To see a redacted copy of the Fire District's proposal, visit durangofire.org. To follow the school district's decision, visit durangoschools.org. Thanks for watching this edition of The Local News Network.

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