Largo looks to future of fire stations with master design plan

Squad 39 is among the units at Fire Station 39 in the Ridgecrest area of unincorporated Largo. The station is likely to be the first of three to receive an overhaul.

LARGO — City commissioners unanimously voted Oct. 20 to approve a $430,000 contract with an architect that could provide short- and long-term benefits for Largo Fire Rescue.

In 2015, the city hired a consultant to conduct a comprehensive study on the needs and conditions of Largo’s fire stations, said Mark Meyers, facilities manager with the Public Works department.

The study concluded that stations 38, 39 and 42 should be replaced in the near future.

In November 2019, the city solicited responses from firms with experience designing fire stations that are functional and resilient enough to survive 50 years.

Of the four firms that made proposals, city staff ranked Wannamacher Jensen Architects as its top choice.

City Manager Henry Schubert said the agreement with the firm will yield more than just a set of blueprints for a single station.

“This is more than just a study,” he said. “It’s actually the development of a plan for a master fire station design to be used in multiple sites, and it does include the construction documents for the first station.”

Meyers said that first facility will likely be Fire Station 39 in the Ridgecrest area of unincorporated Largo.

The exact location of that station is still uncertain, however.

“We are in conversations with Pinellas County about possibly relocating the station to a site immediately to the north of the Health Department facility in Ridgecrest,” Schubert said, referring to the Florida Department of Health facility along Ulmerton Road.

Commissioner Curtis Holmes questioned why the city doesn’t use the blueprints for Fire Station 43, which opened in April 2018, for future stations that are roughly the same size.

“What Wannemacher Jensen is going to do is they’re going to come in and they are going to look at all the stations and they’re going to say, ‘OK, these are all the needs that we have to have in a prototype facility,” Meyers said. “And we didn’t do that for 43.”

Meyers said he expects the design work for the first station to take about eight weeks, and probably two to three months more for construction documents. The city will then select a contractor and start work.

Schubert said the other two stations will come later.

“The phasing of the other two stations is based on the revenues in the Penny for Pinellas fund,” he said. “These three fire stations are all included in the next 10 years, so they’ll probably be two or three years apart.”