By Matthew Cella
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Published August 14, 2006
A D.C. Council member has scheduled a hearing to determine why the city's renovation of a historic firehouse in Northwest remains incomplete more than four years after the project began.
"I'm fed up with how many delays there have been," said council member Phil Mendelson, an at-large Democrat and chairman of the council's Committee on the Judiciary, which has oversight of the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department.
Mr. Mendelson toured the Tenleytown station Aug. 3 with Fire Chief Adrian H. Thompson and Herb Tillery, interim director of the city's Office of Contracting and Procurement.
He scheduled an oversight hearing for Oct. 10.
"We were all very unhappy with the pace," Mr. Mendelson said.
For more than four years, the firetrucks and ambulances at Engine 20, at 4300 Wisconsin Ave. NW, have been dispersed to other stations. Some residents have had to wait for service from as far away as Bethesda.
A $2.9 million renovation contract was awarded in July 2002 to District-based HRGM Corp. A dispute was raised about construction issues, and city officials fired the company in July 2003, saying it had defaulted on the contract.
City officials rebid the contract and selected Garcete Construction Co. Inc., increasing the budget to $3.9 million. Garcete began work in August 2004. The work was supposed to be completed by last August, but the city granted an extension to the contractor until October. Before that deadline passed, fire officials announced the building would not be ready until March this year.
At the end of January, the fire department again revised the schedule to say the completion date would be sometime in the spring, but that deadline was pushed back to this month.
Mr. Mendelson said the latest projections he received put the completion date in October. He said he scheduled the hearing to impose consequences if the job is not completed by the latest deadline.
"Their reputations and their jobs are on the line," he said.
The project now is estimated to cost at least $7 million.
Engine 20's crew was briefly housed in a temporary trailer on the grounds of the Naval District Washington complex. The firefighters are now housed a mile away at Engine Co. 31, at 4930 Connecticut Ave. NW, where they share quarters with that crew.
The fire department cannot begin renovating another station -- Engine Co. 28 at 3522 Connecticut Ave. NW -- until work on the Engine 20 house is completed.
Built more than 100 years ago for horse-drawn fire engines, Engine Co. 20 was to be enlarged, its ventilation and plumbing systems rebuilt and its bay doors widened for modern equipment.
The D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board granted the building historic status in February 2002. The status angered some community members, who cite the designation and the rigid oversight for renovating historic buildings as the reason for the delays.
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