$300 fix may reopen fire station

County OKs temp repair for Newcastle facility
By: ANDREW WESTROPE Journal Staff Writer
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NEWCASTLE – After sleeping in a camper trailer for more than a year, firefighters of the Newcastle Fire Protection District may be able to move back into the fire station today.
The Placer County building department issued a permit for both temporary and permanent repairs to the Main Street fire station on Wednesday, based on an engineering study by Roseville Design Group, Inc. They found that $300 of minor repair work could make the building safely habitable. The fire board approved the repairs by emergency action at its regular meeting on Wednesday, and private contractors completed them on Thursday.
Repairs included replacing old lag bolts on the header beam above the garage door with larger ones, and adding another row of lag bolts to that and to supporting posts.
The board also filled its last remaining vacancy by appointing new member Isaak Egge, who was not immediately available for comment.
Board chairman Dave Ward said he had “no idea” the fix to get the firefighters back in the station would only cost $300 until the engineering study was finished last week, but there were strings attached.
The county had been asking the board for a professional engineering study for months before it yellow-tagged the station last October. Ward said newly-elected board members went to the station to begin the study the day after they were sworn in, but the study took more than a month to complete because it needed to be thorough. He said the building was yellow-tagged as unsafe last October because the previous board had repaired the doorway years ago and neglected to follow through on further repairs. The county would not approve a temporary repair permit unless a long-term plan came with it.
“This has been a process, because we had to hire a team of engineers to have the plans drawn … The actual repair was $300, but it was $3,600 to get to this point, because we had to have the plans drawn for this temporary repair, plus the repair of the station,” Ward said. “As it turned out, we had to wait for the final plans, for the full repair, to be in place before we get permitted on this temporary repair.”
He added that the study was possible because county employees worked with RDG to see it finished.
“Ken Sibley with building, Tim Wegner with code enforcement, Jim Holmes the supervisor, Rui Cunha with emergency services, all of these people worked very closely with us, and they’re to be thanked for helping us,” Ward said. “We wouldn’t be here without them.”
Former board chairwoman Yvonne Lewis said the board had actually done two engineering studies for the station, one after the initial damage in 2005 and another in 2012, and both indicated the building was not up to code in terms of the Americans with Disabilities Act and seismic requirements. She said bringing the buildings back to compliance was cost prohibitive, and that the board’s plan at that time was to have the firefighters sleep in a trailer until a new station could be built.
“It was an estimation of no more than two or three years,” she said.
Placer County Chief Building Official Tim Wegner said the county could not be sure what the damage was until it saw a professional study, and the 2012 study to which Lewis referred was not sufficient.
“The most recent reports furnished by the Newcastle fire board over the last year … were very clear that they were not a full, in-depth structural review,” he said. “They were a cursory review, generally to give a general overview of the building, so the district could make some decisions. The county never did see in-depth detail of what the extent of that damage was, and that’s why we continued to ask for this engineer’s report.”
Wegner would not speculate on why the previous fire board neglected to do the sort of study the county had requested, but he commended the current board for its cooperation.
“This is exactly the way the process should work,” he said. “We have a professional, licensed California engineer review the facility, make a recommendation, follow up with a repair, and that’s what we’re actually seeing today.”
Ward guessed the firefighters would be able to move in this afternoon, and the board would begin advertising for bids on more extensive repairs immediately after its next meeting on Feb. 14.
“Probably within a month we will have picked a contractor, and most likely within a month after that the repairs will be done,” he said. “So we’re looking at a couple of months to where it’s completely done, signed off, structurally sound, so on and so forth.”