With $1.2 million in taxpayer dollars to work with, an amount approved by voters in the May 2014 primary election, the John Day city and rural fire protection departments are moving forward on their shared fire hall.

According to John Day city manager Peggy Gray, demolition, which occurred last week, will be followed by dirt and foundation work. The building’s exterior is expected to start going up in late August, and the goal is to have the roof on and the walls buttoned up by the time winter arrives, said John Day Fire Department chief Ron Smith. Smith said the hall could be fully operational by February.

Kirby Nagelhout Construction Co., of Bend, is the general contractor on the project. The company will subcontract much of the work to more specialized companies. Gray said initial bids from subcontractors were coming in higher than expected, but none had yet been finalized. The entire project is expected to come in at $1.8 million, which includes the cost to purchase the property and demolish the original building.

Smith said requirements to follow both state and federal wage rules means the $1.2 million approved by taxpayers wouldn’t go as far as it would on most local building projects.

“I understand it’s great for the workers,” said Smith “But giving $75 an hour to someone who usually makes $25 is hard to do in such a poor county ... It’s hard when the majority of your dollars go toward labor, when you want to do as much as you can for a building that is going to be here for a long time.”

The El Cocinero Mexican restaurant, which operated at the site of the new fire hall, located at 316 S. Canyon Boulevard, closed June 19. Last week, the John Day Public Works Department made short work of taking down the old building, once home to an A & W Drive-In. Asbestos-contaminated materials were transported to the dump at Arlington. Less dangerous materials were dispatched locally, according to Smith.

The fire hall itself is just phase one of the project. A community meeting room will be part of the facility too, but it may not begin construction until February, or when fundraising is complete.

So far, over $220,000 in grants have been secured for the project, the latest a $9,170 grant from Trust Management Services, LLC in early July. Pending full funding of the community room, the Ford Foundation will kick in $200,000. Other grants awarded include $20,000 from the Oregon Community Foundation and another $1,000 from the Shelk Foundation.

“We still have a couple more grants we have applied for still out there,” the potential for another $240,000, said Gray. The budgeted amount for the community room is $450,000.

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