ALMOST READY

August 21, 2002 11:00 pm
FINISHING DETAILS: La Grande Fire Chief Bruce Weimer, left, discusses the final details involved in finishing the brickwork on the outside of the new fire hall Tuesday with mason Michael Hindal. (The Observer/T.L. Petersen).
FINISHING DETAILS: La Grande Fire Chief Bruce Weimer, left, discusses the final details involved in finishing the brickwork on the outside of the new fire hall Tuesday with mason Michael Hindal. (The Observer/T.L. Petersen).

By T.L. Petersen

Observer Staff Writer

Responding to a middle-of-the-night alarm for a fire or accident should be somewhat easier for firefighters in the new La Grande Fire Hall, Fire Chief Bruce Weimer says.

Giving a tour of the almost-completed $1.5 million fire hall, Weimer pointed to lighting and speaker systems in the seven small bedrooms.

"At least no one should have a heart attack with this," he said.

Currently, when a late-night call comes in, firefighters are awakened by flashing overhead lights and an undulating, loud, bonging siren that echoes through the 1890s original building at Elm Street and Washington Avenue.

The lights in the new fire hall go on automatically, and the alarms in the bedrooms have a system of increasing volume — less likely to stop the heart.

Completing the new fire hall, Weimer said this week, is all about details.

"It's looking good," he said. "I'm not sure it will be done the first of September, but possibly the week after.

"Some of the radio equipment probably won't be in (by the first of the month)."

The building at the corner of Cherry Street and Cove Avenue should have its parking area paved this week, weather permitting, and wiring completed within days.

Carpenters are finishing the interior woodwork, but the bays for the fire trucks and ambulances are completed.

Bathrooms and bedrooms are nearly ready, the lights around the building are in working order, and carpeting is being installed in the community meeting and training room.

"I'm just thrilled with the space," Weimer said, as he opened the multitude of cupboards and cabinet doors that fill offices and hallways in the new building.

And touches of La Grande fire history are in place. The fire pole joining the upstairs quarters to the engine bay has been wrapped for protection and moved to the new fire hall. Its base still needs to be firmly anchored, but it will be ready before the first call comes in.

With five firefighters living in the building during each of three shifts, Weimer notes details of the group kitchen and other living areas.

The kitchen, he said, isn't designed for preparing huge meals since La Grande firefighters have long chosen to bring in their own food preferences, but two refrigerators provide cold storage while smaller lockers keep dry food supplies handy.

Across a hallway, a laundry room is waiting for washers and dryers, and an exercise room is ready for the equipment that has been crammed into the upstairs of the old fire hall to be moved across town.

The moving plan, Weimer said, is for the firefighters to move equipment and personal items — beds, exercise equipment, and lounge furniture — using pickups and trailers.

As he moved through the new building, Weimer stopped for numerous conversations with contractors finishing the brickwork on the outside walls, tilers finishing bits of the floor, W.C. Construction's job supervisor, and even with the person who might provide regular tile maintenance once construction is finished.

Weimer is aware of every dollar going into the building.

The city and the fire department hoped to put up the building for $1.35 million. The bids came in closer to $1.5 million, Weimer said, which used up the planned contingency fund for the construction project.

But the bid — and what it would mean if there were overruns — was approved by the city council.

During construction, changes to the original plans have added about $40,000 to the cost, La Grande City Administrator Wes Hare said. Another approximately $30,000 in cost overruns to date have brought the building to roughly $70,000 over bid.

Some of the changes during construction, Hare added, will result in long-term savings in maintenance and efficiency. Others had to be done to meet various codes.

Both Weimer and Hare agree that the contractor, W.C. Construction, has "given excellent value for the money."

Weimer is already planning for a week-long open house with tours and special events at the new fire hall during early October.

He hopes, he said, that area residents will take the time to come and tour what Hare calls a good addition to the community.

Reach T.L. Petersen at

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