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Asbestos issue may complicate construction of Bingen's fire hall

City officials hopeful that all will turn out for the best.

Construction of Bingen's new fire station hit a bit of a bump last week, but city officials are hopeful that's all it will turn out to be.

Mayor Brian Prigel said a familiar environmental culprit -- asbestos -- was behind the possible snag.

"We are required to have an asbestos survey completed before contractors start demolishing the building," Prigel said.

Last week, a company specializing in asbestos detection, Med-Tox Northwest, based in Auburn, came in and took 65 samples in an effort to discover how much asbestos is in the building, which was built in the 1950s.

"They took one look at the building and they knew there were some asbestos issues," said Jan Brending, Bingen's city clerk. "Especially given the age of the structure."

The existing fire station will be torn down and a new one built on the same site.

Council members recognized that asbestos could prove to be a big hurdle to overcome.

"That would be very expensive to dispose of compared to regular disposal," noted council member Laura Mann.

Med-Tox charged the city about $2,300 for the asbestos hunt, which includes lab work costs as well as taking lead-paint samples.

"Hopefully, if there is asbestos, it is in a form that's easy to deal with," Prigel said.

Brending added that if the amount of asbestos is significant enough, the city may have to pay for a contractor to abate the hazard.

"If it gets airborne, there are even more significant issues with it," Brending said. "We need to keep it from getting airborne in the community."

In other news regarding construction of the new fire hall, the city of Bingen opened bids for the project on March 22. The apparent low bidder was Knerr Construction, out of Hermiston, Ore. Knerr's bid was approximately $799,000.

The engineer's estimate projected a cost of roughly $730,000.

"It's not so far out of line that it would put the brakes on it," said Mayor Prigel. "But it would have certainly been nicer if the bids came in at the engineer's estimate or below."

Prigel added that the high bid came in at $928,000.

Provided everything is in order with Knerr's bid, the Bingen City Council is expected to award the construction contract to the Hermiston firm at the next City Council meeting.

"We make recommendations at the April 2 council meeting to award the bid," Prigel noted. "The only wild card now is asbestos."

The city hopes that work on the new fire station can get under way by mid-April.


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