Fire station expansion planned at airport

County Airport Board Chairman Bob Unzicker, right, and Vice Chairman Matt Ziegler listen to a preliminary dicscussion on a plan to expand the airport's fire station to meet federal space requirements fo parking new fire supression vehicles. Ninety percent of the $1.5 million price tag will be picked up by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Board members of the Scotts Bluff County Airport Authority got a preliminary outline for a new, expanded fire station building at the Western Nebraska Regional Airport during its meeting Wednesday.

Jeff Wolfe with M.C. Schaff and Associates shared details for a 4,000 square foot expansion, north of the current fire station, to accommodate the airport’s new fire suppression vehicle. New vehicles fall under new Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations as to size of the “garage” to house them.

Wolfe told the board the new station would run in the neighborhood of $1.5 million with the FAA picking up 90% of the cost. That leaves $150,000 for the county to fund.

“You could probably build that building for a fraction of the cost,” Wolfe told the board. “But when you deal with the federal government and their Buy American policy, the cost goes up. But that’s also why the feds are paying for 90% of the project.”

Wolfe said the success of the airport was in part responsible for the new station. For 2019, the airport recorded 18,423 boardings. With that amount of traffic, FAA regulations require a larger fire suppression vehicle than most rural airports to handle any emergency.

“The new vehicle is housed in the same station as the old one,” Wolfe said. “New building safety codes require more clearance for new vehicles.”

He said the project would be an addition to the existing fire station, not a completely new building. The addition would include more room for firefighters to store their gear and other required maintenance equipment for the truck.

The addition will be on the north side of the current fire station with a connector between the two buildings. There will be two doors, one on both east and west sides of the station, so vehicles can be driven in and out without having to back up.

Currently, the preliminary plan is at the state Fire Marshal’s office awaiting comments and suggestions. Once completed, the plan will be forwarded to the FAA so the project can move forward.

Wolfe said several alternate sites had been considered, but the central location of the current fire station made it the only feasible site. That site will pose some challenges.

The station extension will take up some of the ramp used by Valley Aviation used to park its fuel truck for refueling planes at the airport.

Wolfe said they will need to work with Valley and the airport to find an alternate location, perhaps farther north but also within proximity of the aircraft, as a site to park fueling vehicles.

Also during the airport board meeting, the owners of the new Roma Restaurant at the airport shared some news. Co-owner Noti Berisha said they plan a soft opening for lunch and dinner on Monday, Jan. 20. Their official opening will be the following day, with lunch and dinner hours seven days a week.

We're always interested in hearing about news in our community. Let us know what's going on!

Jerry Purvis is a reporter with the Star-Herald. He can be reached at 308-632-9046 or emailed at jpurvis@starherald.com.

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