Cost of Temporary Fire Station at Wilson School Unknown

While I am relieved that County Staff has not recommended Rhodeside Green Park as the site of a temporary fire station, I’m concerned about the process by which Wilson School was selected.

First, it is evident that while the County Manager’s office solicited input, its response to community in the published temporary fire station FAQ indicates that most of the objections to the Wilson School site were dismissed.

Second, while an alternatives analysis was done, the results of that analysis, published as Attachment 3 to the staff report, show that no serious cost benefit analysis was undertaken.

Now I appreciate the difficulty of estimating costs for all twenty-four sites evaluated, but surely staff could have generated numbers for six. As things stand right now, only the cost of Rhodeside Green Park and the Holiday Inn site are available—at least $400,000 and $1.5 million, respectively. The cost of the Wilson School site itself is unknown. On this the FAQ says:

The costs associated with using the Wilson School site are being formulated in conjunction with APS staff.

The staff report says:

Cost estimates are very preliminary and estimated at about $1 million (assuming the garage under the field is not constructed), although staff is working with Arlington Public Schools to better refine these estimates.

Come again? How can you determine that the costs associated with two dozen alternative sites are too high without knowing the cost of the preferred site?

Not only that, if the Wilson site deal goes through, the County will be liable for the $5 million cost of building a parking garage for the school, should Penzance fail to make good on its promise to build one, an obligation it would not have to assume at any other location.

So what we have here is a fait accompli instead of a well thought ought decision, and one that may well cost taxpayers an additional $5 million.

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