Katy City Council approves fire station repairs, permitting review at Dec. 14 meeting

By R. Hans Miller | News Editor
Posted 12/15/20

Katy City Council members approved mold remediation and repairs for the city’s Fire Station One with costs not to exceed $600,000 at their Monday afternoon meeting. Council also approved an …

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Katy City Council approves fire station repairs, permitting review at Dec. 14 meeting

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Katy City Council members approved mold remediation and repairs for the city’s Fire Station One with costs not to exceed $600,000 at their Monday afternoon meeting. Council also approved an agreement allowing SAFEbuilt, Inc. to review the city’s permitting practices.

“I’m pleased that (the permitting measure) is on the agenda and we do get to vote on it,” said Council Member Rory Robertson who was elected Nov. 3. “Permitting can be a challenge for both the businesses and individuals in the past. It has never been a people problem before, but a numbers problem in Katy and the growing community.”

Permitting concerns

Builders, homeowners and businesses operating within the city of Katy have noted challenges with getting permitting issues consistently addressed in recent years. Owners Nicholas Jesset and Nici Jesset of MKT Distilleries said they had a variety of problems over the summer while trying to make some repairs and minor improvements at the distillery which is housed in Katy’s iconic rice dryer silos. The frustrations they experienced included inspectors giving them inconsistent information that led to expenses that were unreasonable and prompted Nici to ask to be put on the agenda at the Katy City Council Sept. 28 meeting.

“When we first opened, there were no issues and they were great,” Nici said in an Oct. 11 interview. “And then, you know, as soon as we got the plumbing permit to do stuff that the health department wanted us to do, I mean, all Hell broke loose.”

The Jessetts said their attempt to fix some minor plumbing issues led them to the permitting department, which then gave them a series of requirements that were inconsistent with what they’d been initially set up with when they first opened a couple years ago. There were discussions of installing special sinks with grease traps as if they were a restaurant – the only food the distillery itself serves is cut lemons for cocktails, all other food is served by food trucks – and at one point an inspector told them that their seating capacity would require them to install a large public restroom, which might have closed the business given the shutdowns caused by the pandemic.

Council was receptive to her feedback during the October meeting Nici said.  

Public Works Director Elaine Lutringer and other city officials moved forward to set up the agreement with SAFEbuilt which was approved at the meeting. It was unclear at the meeting if the move was solely due to the Jessetts bringing the issue to the council’s attention. Lutringer said she expects the assessment of the permitting process to begin in early January 2021 and take about a month.

“I just want to thank Elaine (Lutringer) and Public Works and staff for being open,” said Mayor Pro Tem Chris Harris. “I know it’s difficult to ask for criticism and feedback, so I know that’s a tough part of the process, but I don’t want to say it’s a negative or that there’s always a problem. There’s a lot of positive that comes from the Permitting Department.”

Remediating mold

The quality of structures was a theme earlier in the meeting as well, as Katy City Council members discussed mold remediation and structural repairs to Fire Station One at 1417 Avenue D in Katy. Staff were moved out of the fire station in early May after the city was advised that a mold infestation at the facility presented a health concern to firefighters, EMTs and administrative staff working at the facility. Staff are currently working out of the Fussell Senior Center and the other fire stations operated by the city.

“I think that anyone (who) knows me, knows without a doubt my support for first responders. I feel that this sentiment carries across the entire council,” Robertson said. “We know that we need to get them home and this is an important vote tonight to accomplish that goal.”

Mold remediation will be handled by the Gordian Group with a not to exceed amount of $600,000 for the first phase of repairs to the building. The first phase is expected to remediate the mold, repair the structure and make modifications to the building to bring it within code. City documents indicate that the mold infestation appears to be mostly on the south side of the building where administrative offices are located. Additionally, those documents indicate problems with the building’s roof which will have to be addressed to prevent water from leaking into the building, possibly causing additional water damage and opportunities for mold to infest the station once again.

Council was in favor of ensuring that warranties and guarantees were obtained wherever possible given that Fire Station One has had a recurring problem with mold infestations in the past, as Robertson pointed out.

Repairs to the station would take about four months, Lutringer said. During that time, workers will also assess the building for any additional repair needs and those needs and costs would be brought back to council for review and approval, she added. Those repairs may address the HVAC system in the building as well as steel columns in the vehicle bays to ensure the building’s serviceability.

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