Inmates save taxpayers in fire hall renovation

Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 5:30 am

The sheriff’s department work crew focuses on completing the interior of the new addition to the Parks City Fire Hall. ~ Staff photos by Laurie Pearson

The sheriff’s department work crew focuses on completing the interior of the new addition to the Parks City Fire Hall. ~ Staff photos by Laurie Pearson

Expanding the Park City Volunteer Fire Department has been a huge undertaking and could have cost taxpayers thousands had the construction not been done by the Lincoln County Sheriff’s work program.

Sheriff Murray Blackwelder estimates that by having the inmates do the work, the county has saved between $50,000 and $100,000 on the construction costs.

“To the best of my knowledge, it was the first established station in Lincoln County,” Capt. Jeremy Thompson said of the Park City Volunteer Fire Department. “It was responsible for covering 580-square miles in the county.”

The station still responds to a high number of calls.

Thompson has been with the department for 15 years and has been captain for the past six years.

He saw that the building needed improvements and updates. It took more than a five-year struggle to get the funding for improvements.

“It wouldn’t have happened except for Sheriff Murray Blackwelder,” said Thompson.

Several years ago, county commissioners set aside $30,000 for the building’s improvement, but hiring an architect alone would have cost nearly that much. The sheriff’s work program offered a sensible economic solution.

“We were able to come in under the limit for an architect,” said Blackwelder.

Later, county commissioners voted to set aside $24,000 to improve and expand the structure.

“We’ve been successful at building it under $24,000,” the sheriff said.

A view of the exterior of the Parks City Volunteer Fire and Rescue Depart-ment prior to the garage doors being installed. The Lincoln County Sher-iff’s Department work crew, supervised by Gary Steger, is completing the facility. ~ Staff photo by Laurie Pearson

A view of the exterior of the Parks City Volunteer Fire and Rescue Depart-ment prior to the garage doors being installed. The Lincoln County Sher-iff’s Department work crew, supervised by Gary Steger, is completing the facility. ~ Staff photo by Laurie Pearson

As a result of the work program, inmates with construction skills improve their own skills and cross-train other inmates, teaching them marketable construction skills.  The program has not only saved the county nearly $1.5 million since it began, but more than 80 percent of the inmates in the program, once released, find jobs and don’t return to jail.

Parks City Fire Department houses the 911 communications for the south end of Lincoln County.

Sheriff Blackwelder explained, “It was vitally important to get the facility in the best condition we could have it in.”

A communications hub is located on the station’s tower, and approximately $30,000 to $50,000 worth of electronic equipment there serves the 911 center.

With Sheriff Blackwelder’s oversight and knowledge of iron construction, two teams tackled the challenge. Mike Davis, a contractor, corrections officer and team leader, supervised the construction of the red iron frame addition to the building. Maintenance Supervisor Gary Steger and his crew provided the interior wood frame construction and other projects inside the building.

“They have done an exceptional job,” said Blackwelder.

Prior to its expansion, the building was 30-feet wide by 60-feet long. With the expansion, the building is 35-feet wide and 70-feet long, with an addition on one side of the back portion of the building making it 45-feet wide.

“It increased the space by 1,500 to 2,000 square feet,” said Capt. Thompson.

The addition to the side provides a larger restroom and shower facilities for the firefighters, a kitchen area and the 911 radio communications room. A second story has also been added, which could accommodate a loft for a storage area at a later date.

The crews have insulated the building and installed two large roll up doors, which replace the single large door which was previously on the front of the building.

Previously the building only housed two trucks and depended on the assistance of another station to provide the state-required 4,000 gallons of  water for a first alarm fire.

Now that Park City has  double the space, it will permit  the station at some point to purchase a system that can deliver 4,500 gallons of water   when responding to a first alarm fire.

Sheriff Blackwelder anticipates that the station should be completed within the next two weeks.

Headlines of the Day