Kelvin Moore

Kelvin Moore of Moore Architecture presents plans for the addition to the South Boston Fire Department to town council at Monday’s work session.

J. E. Burton Construction submitted the low bid for construction of an expansion for the South Boston Fire Department, coming in at $1,404,185, and South Boston Town Council, minus three council members, advanced the issue to its Dec. 9 meeting.

But it did so after J. E. Burton vice-president Christian Willis and Kelvin Moore of Moore Architecture addressed concerns from council members W. R. Snead, Winston Harrell and Bob Hughes and Mayor Ed Owens about cost-saving measures for the addition.

Council members Sharon Harris and Michael Byrd and Vice Mayor Tina Wyatt-Younger did not attend Monday’s work session.

Four contractors attended a pre-bid conference, and two bids were received, one from J. E. Burton Construction and a $1,416,000 base bid from Quality Construction of Danville.

Much of the discussion revolved around approval of a notice to proceed, which would have allowed J. E. Burton lead time for a notice to proceed, allowing for lead-time for critical material orders.

Construction could start in early January if all goes to plan, according to Moore.

Not all items are included in the low bid, including a fire alarm system, wake-up or alerting system, and the county building official may determine the new sleeping quarters by code may require a sprinkler system.

“We need to answer those questions,” said Snead, responding to comments from Town Manager Tom Raab, explaining the final cost for a sprinkler system may not be known until the project goes to the permitting stage.

“An alarm system is not a huge cost,” Raab noted.

Snead also questioned the need for the addition of three offices in the plans for an expanded fire station.

An expanded South Boston Fire Department will include a four-bay garage, four sleeping quarters, three offices and two shower facilities spread among 7,300 square feet.

Plans also call for larger bay doors, 14x14-feet compared to the current bay doors, which are 12x12 feet, and finishes will match the existing building, primarily brick.

An expanded structure allows fire trucks to enter the garage at the rear of the building off Fenton Street, rather than fire trucks having to back into the station from Broad Street when returning from a call.

The base bid turned in by Burton Construction may not be the total cost of the project if unforeseen issues turn up during construction, and Owens asked if there could be a caveat to the construction contract with a “not to exceed” a certain amount.

“The scariest thing I’ve ever heard in construction is change order,” said Owens, who received reassurances from Willis that any changes would be brought to council for their approval.

“I don’t like change orders either. They’re a royal pain, and we don’t make money from them,” said Willis.

Moore reminded council that construction costs are constantly changing, telling Owens that the initial cost of $125 per square foot for the project has increased in the last several months to from $185-$200 per square foot.

Willis mentioned several potential cost-saving measures that, if implemented, would save the town $30,000 for removing the epoxy floor finish in the garage, $5,000 for reducing the size of the trench drains in the garage, $4,500 for eliminating two large overhead fans and $6,000 for reducing the “R” value of the roof insulation from R38 to R25.

Raab told council the objective all along was to have a fire station that would, with the additional space and upgrades, last for the next 50 years.

Several meetings were held between fire department staff and town officials in determining the needs for a fire station, including moving the sleeping quarters downstairs, something that added money to the project but was needed, according to Raab.

Planning for the addition was not done without a lot of thought and deliberation, Raab noted, adding that the town has $450,000 in the current budget to begin construction, leaving approximately $950,000, if the original estimate by Burton stands.

He suggested Willis and J. E. Burton take suggested changes into consideration and present them at the Dec. 9 council meeting.

Willis told council he also would approach the county building official to determine if a sprinkler system was required and inform council of his findings at the Dec. 9 meeting.

Until that time, final costs for the project remain unresolved.

Doug Ford reports for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact him at

Doug Ford covers news and sports for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact him at