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Marble Falls fire station to get makeover

Marble Falls Fire Station 1

Built over 25 years ago, Fire Station 1, 700 Avenue N in Marble Falls, currently uses a window as a fire escape in lieu of a door. Replacing the window with a door is at the top of Fire Chief Russell Sander’s renovation wishlist. Staff photo by Nathan Bush

The Marble Falls City Council took a second step in renovation plans for Fire Station 1 when it approved a $246,500 expenditure for design and architectural services during a regular meeting Tuesday, Jan. 3.

While current projections show the project will be $3.3 million total, the design process should reduce costs.

Proposed improvements include larger showers, an elevator, and increased compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“There are some of us that are more advanced in years, and we are happy to have an elevator,” said Fire Chief Russell Sander. 

Another key addition is a door to replace the window that currently serves as the station’s main fire escape. 

“We’ll be able to utilize the exterior staircase that is the emergency exit,” Sander said.

Houston-based architecture firm Martinez Architects will handle the architectural and design process of the renovation. The firm plans to ensure the exterior of the station, 700 Avenue N, visually meshes with the Marble Falls Police Department’s building next door.

“My vision is to look at the exterior and see if we can’t at least try to change it to match next door so that whole public safety area has continuity,” Sander said.

Built over 25 years ago, the fire station originally served the volunteer department before being retrofitted to house the city’s department.

“Literally, the showers upstairs were small enough that I think a middle school kid would have a hard time getting out,” Sander said. “The design was more like a school than a functional fire station.”

Once building renovations are complete, the department hopes to improve accessibility to the station’s parking lot.

“During this whole process, we want (Martinez Architects) to redesign the entire parking lot to make it more user-friendly, make it more easy to navigate,” Sander said. “Then, we’ll sweet talk the public works crew about coming in and pouring some liquid asphalt and helping us repaint.”

Renovation talks began in last summer after the council approved a $13,575 feasibility study for the proposed project. During the June 7, 2022, meeting, Sander mentioned possible mold and other harmful contaminants inside the station’s infrastructure. An environmental study confirmed the presence of mold inside the facility; however, the investigation found the mold did not pose an immediate health risk to the station’s staff.

“I’m happy to report the environmental assessment of the building came back with no major health concerns,” Sander said. “That was a blessing.”

Potential health risks associated with the station hit close to home. Two members of the Marble Falls Fire Rescue team have been diagnosed with cancer over the past several years.

“Two firefighters out of 18 of us total — that’s a lot,” Sander said. “That’s something in my recommendation in the beginning that we do this so that we can at least protect our employees the best we can.”

Marble Falls Mayor Richard Westerman was happy to approve the expenditure motion as a show of support for the city’s first responders.

“I think this is one of the reasons we got elected here: was to take care of the fire department and the safety in our town,” he said. “It’s a priority.”

The Marble Falls City Council’s next regular meeting is 6 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 17, in council chambers at City Hall, 800 Third St.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story said an environmental study found no presence of mold in Fire Station 1. Mold was actually found but presented no health risks to staff, according to the investigation.

CLARIFICATION: A previous version of this story said the project’s total cost would be $3.3 million. Officials clarified that the total cost should be reduced through the design process.

nathan@thepicayune.com