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Stephens voted yes then no on $3M fire station contract

Fire Station 2 is under construction on Sugarloaf Road. Fire Station 2 is under construction on Sugarloaf Road.


Fire Station No. 2 first came before the council in May 2009, two years before Stephens returned to the City Council. The station, which fire officials said was needed to serve the growing population east of I-26, was submitted as a future capital project at a cost of $900,000. The city had not yet chosen a location or bought land. Stephens was elected to the council in November 2011.
After buying property and a metal warehouse on Sugarloaf Road, the council in August of 2012 discussed whether to renovate the metal building for use as a fire station or build a new station from the ground up. Stephens and the rest of the council voted for new construction. The estimate was $3.16 million.
In December of that year, Stephens voted to solicit bids from banks to borrow $6 million for the fire station, a new fire truck and the Main Street rehabilitation project. In March of this year Stephens joined the rest of the council in voting for the loan, from BB&T.
In April, the council awarded the bid to Cooper Construction Co. after a lower bid was thrown out for failing to meet bid requirements.
"I voted for the first discussion, and I had frankly forgotten about it, and that was to approve Cooper, because I always like to give the business to local parties," he said. "A couple of us had to fight to get Cooper approved. "Then when it came back up for clarification on the bid and the amount, I voted against it."
Stephens voted no to the add-ons in April when the council clarified the scope of its vote two weeks earlier.
In an interview, he said he would exert more control as mayor over cost overruns.
"The whole thing, if you look at all the overruns, on Main Street, the fire station and the famous fountain .... we should have meetings with the contractor and subcontractor, the architect."
Volk said the minutes clearly show Stephens supported the fire station project in numerous votes until "he changed his mind." As for his proposed actions as mayor, "I'm not sure what kind of leadership he would have exercised," she said. "If it was a 4-1 vote he obviously did not convince anyone to his side."