The building is done, the parking lot is paved, the fire trucks have arrived and the ribbon is cut, meaning the new Airport Operations Facility in Kenai is ready to be put to use.
"This is a state-of-the-art facility that we are really proud of," said Kenai Municipal Airport Manager Rebecca Cronkhite. "I cannot tell you what a great building this is."
The facility will serve a number of purposes for the airport and help it meet Federal Aviation Administration regulations. The two airport rescue and fire-fighting vehicles will be relocated from the Kenai Fire Department to the new building and a firefighter will be stationed at the facility at all times.
The FAA requires an airport to be able to get a fire truck and water to the center of the runway within three minutes of an alarm. With the equipment and personnel on-site, it will be much easier to respond in an emergency situation.
The Kenai Fire Department will begin stationing firefighters at the facility within three or four weeks, Cronkhite said, once communications wiring is completed in the building.
The 20,000-square-foot building contains drive-through bays, storage and office space and living quarters for the firefighters who will be stationed there.
There are two 60-foot drive-through bays in the fire station portion of the building where the airport rescue and fire-fighting vehicles will be housed. On the other side of the building is a 96-foot warm storage drive-through area where sand, snow removal equipment and other items will be kept, as well as a 96-foot drive-through wash bay where equipment and vehicles can be cleaned.
Sandwiched in the middle is the office area used by firefighters and airport maintenance personnel. This section has two levels and contains office space, bathroom facilities, locker rooms, a dorm room, a kitchen area and a commons-training area. Beyond the main building is a smaller structure containing a fueling facility, emergency back-up generator and two equipment interchange-storage bays.
The facility had a ceremonial opening and ribbon cutting Friday, which was attended by city officials, firefighters and members of the public. The event was the only time the building will be open to view by the public.
For a functional, industrial facility, a great deal of care went into aesthetic considerations in its design and construction. RIM Architects, based in Anchorage, designed the project so it would make a favorable first impression to visitors flying into Kenai.
There are multiple curved roofs reminiscent of vintage airport hangers. The curves give the building a graceful look, help reduce the apparent size of the large structure and were designed not to obstruct air traffic control tower sight lines. On the exterior, the facility is constructed of two-toned cement blocks and metal siding, with wood beams used as structural highlights.
The interior of the facility was designed with aesthetic considerations, as well.
"We wanted to make an enjoyable work space," said Marco Zaccaro, project architect for RIM. "There's a lot of glass, and a lot of light and color to warm it up and liven it up."
Much of the steel girders are done in a plum color, the doors are a darker maroon shade and the cement walls are done in a yellowish hue. The firefighters' commons and office area, especially, contain a lot of windows to let in natural light and make the area pleasantly livable.
Zaccaro estimated the building had a design life of 50 years, and it is designed to expand to the north and south, with the utilities dug to the outer walls for easy extension.
Almost all of the contractors hired for the project were local.
"We try and work with local contractors and sub(contractor)s," Zaccaro said. "It's good business to utilize the labor force that's here. You get a better job. It's been really great working with people (here). The contractor finished the project on time, and we couldn't have asked for a better situation."
That labor-sharing arrangement worked well for area businesses, too.
"Virtually all the money that went into the project went into our community, and we're very pleased to say that," said Kenai Mayor John Williams.
The project cost about $5 million and took about two years to build. Approximately 94 percent of that cost was paid for by money from the FAA. The other 6 percent was paid for by the city of Kenai.
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