By Richard Kerns
Tribune Staff Writer
KEYSER – Keyser Mayor Randy Amtower credited a major local contractor with helping the city begin to address a long list of operational problems at its new fire station on West Piedmont Street.
Amtower said Carl Belt, president of The Carl Belt Group, last week visited the Keyser Volunteer Fire Department station built by a division of Belt's company, and has already spurred action on some of the problems that have plagued the station almost from the time it opened in August, 2011. The prime contractor for the $1.6 million building was Harbel Construction, a subsidiary of The Belt Group.
"Mr. Belt was a big help to us," the mayor reported at Wednesday's meeting of the Keyser City Council.
Keyser Volunteer Fire Department Chief Chris Paitsell has complained repeatedly of problems with the new station, which was financed by the state as part of the construction of the new Memorial Bridge that forced the demolition of the old station on Center Street.
Besides electrical glitches, an inoperable hot water tank and a malfunctioning sprinkler system, the biggest problem at the station involves garage-bay doors that do not operate properly. Paitsel reported at a City Council meeting earlier this year that he had directed his crews to drive through the doors if they did not open in response to a fire or other emergency call, saying he would not allow such a problem to imperil public safety.
Paitsel joined Mayor Amtower and fire department officer/Magistrate Judge Dave Harman in meeting at the station last week with Belt and a senior engineer with the construction company.
While Belt officials are still reviewing the list of problems identified by the city officials, at least one issue has already been resolved: A malfunctioning hot water tank that had left the station without hot water for several weeks – despite repeated complaints from the city -- was replaced within days of the station-house meeting.
Amtower said that Belt, as a major employer in the area, has influence with subcontractors that the city does not enjoy. If such businesses don't meet the company's expectations for quality of service, they may find that they are no longer welcome on Belt jobs.
"They have a lot more pull with those people," the mayor said. "Belt has a lot of work, and they don't want to get bumped off the sub (contractor) list."
The mayor said other issues, including the doors, are still being evaluated, but he is confident that Belt's influence will prove beneficial in resolving the problems.
"They did agree with us that some of these things were quite ridiculous for a building that's not even two years old," Amtower said. "They are going to be instrumental in helping us."
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