New fire station could be done before end of year

HARLINGEN — City officials will spend an additional $475,000 to build the city’s new fire station.

Last night, city commissioners awarded a $1.5 million contract to Harlingen-based Couric Enterprises to build the station whose original budget was about $1.1 million.

Commissioners awarded the bid to Couric Enterprises, the second low-bidder, two weeks after the low-bidder, Harlingen-based Pietra Construction, withdrew its bid of $1.2 million.

Pietra Construction did not disclose the reason it withdrew its bid to build the 5,277-square-foot, two-story fire station at the corner of Stuart Place and Brennaman roads.

Officials will use $475,000 in bond money to meet Couric Enterprises’ bid, City Manager Dan Serna said.

Officials agreed to award the contract to Couric Enterprises rather than request new bids that could come with higher costs.

Officials said they would try to keep the project’s original specifications.

Architectural plans call for a station that will blend in with the neighborhood at the corner of Stuart Place and Brennaman roads, Commissioner Tudor Uhlhorn said.

“This has a residential look and it’s going to be in a residential area,” Uhlhorn told the audience.

Couric Enterprises plans to build the station within nine months.

For years, Harlingen leaders planned to build a station to bring fire service to the fast-growing west side, where the city has annexed land as far as Bass Boulevard.

In 2003, voters approved a bond issue to build the fire station on five acres purchased for about $240,000.

The new station will cut emergency response time to about four to five minutes, Fire Chief Rogelio Rubio said.

Currently, the city’s Dixieland Road fire station often handles emergency calls to the west side.

From Dixieland Road, fire trucks often take six to eight minutes to reach the west side, Rubio said.

Rubio plans to shift firefighters’ schedules to be able to staff the new station without hiring new firefighters.

The project has faced some opposition.

Last July, some area residents and neighbors opposed plans to build the new station, arguing the proposed facility would bring noise, devalue their homes and help lead to the area’s commercialization.

Despite the opposition, commissioners approved staff’s request for a permit to allow the fire station to be built in the residential and agricultural area.