Big Savings:City’s Facilities Maintenance Department Taking on Big Role

By Seth Daniel

When Fire Chief Tony Carli was faced with finding swing space for the fire trucks and firefighters during the upcoming $3.2 million Hancock Street Fire Station rehabilitation project, he was in a bind.

The station’s engine company needed to remain in the upper Broadway area, so sending it to Central Fire Station or Ferry Street wasn’t an option. The areas of Belmont Street and Cedar Street are densely populated and contain many elderly residents, so having an engine close is critical, he said.

But how were the going to do that?

“They aren’t exactly manufacturing new land in Everett,” joked Carli. “Finding a space was tough.”

Renting trailers was going to be very expensive, and open space in that densely populated area of Everett is hard to come by.

So, he turned to George Lane, the new director of the newly created Facilities Management Department – a department that came out of a chance meeting between Lane and Mayor Carlo DeMaria in the hallway of City Hall.

Lane and his crew have been doing top-quality work on city-owned facilities all over Everett – saving the City tons of money and helping to make the growing municipality flexible as things are updated and refurbished so quickly.

“We looked at the trailers and it was going to cost $80,000. It would have to be set up, and we weren’t sure what we’d be doing with them afterward,” he said. “When George came down, he said why use trailers? He said his crew could do a complete renovation of an area of the old high school for $15,000. I can’t say enough about the way things went and the end product. I came in right at $15,000. They came in eight weeks ago and this place was a mess. There was furniture everywhere. Now, eight weeks later, they’ve built a new fire station.

“This is a fully serviced fire station,” he continued. “It has all the emergency communications…a day room, dorm rooms, showers and everything we need to service the apparatus. They just came in spot on. I’ve been in city government for 18 years and eight weeks is never eight weeks. This was unbelievable work.”

Mayor Carlo DeMaria said he recently re-organized the Facilities Maintenance Department to save money on just such things.

“This project was done on time, below budget and was completed by in-house staff,” he said. “It is important to continue to implement this type of work into our approach in order to save our taxpayers money. I want to thank our Facilities Maintenance Department for their creative design for the use of this space.”

As part of a long-term budgetary strategy, the Mayor recently restructured the Facilities Maintenance Department, which has saved the City thousands of dollars by completing projects in-house. The Mayor has lowered expenses, he said, by approaching cost savings as a core element at the project’s start and effectively implementing it into his administration’s culture.

Carli said the construction of the new station is a tremendous help, as his crews had to be out of the Hancock Station last Tuesday night. With the new station finished last week, the transition will be relatively seamless, the engine will be situated close to the neighborhood and the move will not be the nightmare Carli had anticipated.

Plus, the new station can continue to be used for future projects.

“We have a big project on the Central Fire Station at the end of the year – a $2 million project where a lot needs to be done,” Carli said. “This is really going to take the pressure off of that too. Now, we have the flexibility when we’re doing construction and have to move a company. We have the space. We don’t need to worry about where we’re going or if the equipment will be in the right place.”

Lane said he and his crew, which includes electricians, carpenters and plumbers, are always ready for a challenging task.

They have moved 25-ton air conditioners, fit-out offices for city workers, and most notably, they completely redid the Recreation Center flooring.

“My guys are ready to take on a lot of challenges,” he said. “They look at me like I’m crazy when I tell them what we’re going to do, but we always do it.”

At the Rec Center, the floor was in bad shape and mostly due to constant flooding.

Bids were coming in for the repairs at $125,000 – way more than anyone had in their budget for the repairs and likely a price that would have increased with “change orders” once begun.

DeMaria asked Lane to take a look and see what they could do.

“The insurance payment for damages done to the flooring was around $75,000,” said Lane. “We ripped up the floor. Then we poured 66 yards of concrete, which is crazy for a City Facilities Management Department.”

Then they put in a new outdoor court system so that if there were flooding, the flooring of the courts wouldn’t be damaged. And, in fact, in a recent rain event, the Center did get water, but this time there was no damage because the new court was able to handle the water.

And also, Lane’s crew finished the job below budget, coming in at just $70,000 of the $75,000 insurance payment.

“I’ve never seen a city or town take on projects like this,” said Lane. “I have a great group of guys, and I can’t say enough about them. They like challenging projects…The mayor had a great vision for this department. He put good people in place and had some ideas about what he wanted. I had 35 years in business and had been a building inspector. He caught me in the hallway with this idea. Now, here we are.”

Where the city is at is successfully taking in-house a function that is often bid out to private companies – and at great expense. By being able to handle some of the projects, Carli said it’s amazing what is being saved and put towards the final project.

“Other places have tried this, but it hasn’t always been successful,” said Carli. “Having this swing space is so valuable. For years, we didn’t have the people, the funding or the talent. Now we’re seeing it…Obviously the less we’re paying for space during construction is more money we can put into the actual project to make it a better fire station. That’s quite a value.”

Added Lane, “I think when more places hear about what we’re doing, they’re going to really pay attention. I think they’re going to wonder why they aren’t doing these project in-house. That’s for sure.”

The Hancock Street Fire Station was previously approved in the city’s Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), and taken up this year. The old Station closed on Tuesday night, with the station moving to the temporary location in the old Everett High at 4 p.m. Tuesday. The work on the Hancock Station will include a total gut rehabilitation, new utilities, a new roof and other repairs.

“Renovation of this building is long overdue,” said the mayor. “It is one of our city’s oldest buildings, and it is important that we recognize the importance of this project and the value it will return to our city and fire department.”

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