June 9, 2011 in Washington Voices

Newman Lake seeks new fire station

District has land, proposed designs, needs bond to replace 1966 structure at cost of $2 million
By The Spokesman-Review
 
Map of this story's location

The Newman Lake Fire District is inching ever closer to finalizing plans to build a new fire station on close to 12 acres of land the district owns at Starr and Moffat roads. Discussions have been under way in one form or another since 2002.

An architect has finished drawings of a few proposed designs and commissioners are discussing going out for a construction bond. A crowd filled the meeting room at Station 1 Monday night to get more information, with several people having to stand. Commissioner Eileen Weyrauch offered to get more chairs until she realized she couldn’t. “We’re out of chairs,” she said. “This is why we need a new station.”

The current Station 1 on West Newman Lake Drive was built in 1966. The list of things wrong with it is long. It is not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. There is no sprinkler system. The fire engines are crammed into too-small bays that don’t comply with regulations on required space between the trucks and the wall. If the power goes out firefighters have to raise and lower the doors by hand in order to get the trucks out. Fumes from the trucks seep into the cramped office because there is no exhaust removal system.

The special meeting was called to get input on the proposed station designs. Architect Eric Schaer of TCA Architecture in Seattle said the district’s flat parcel of land with two access points is ideal. “We pray for stuff like that over in Seattle,” he said.

Great effort was made to keep the design and floor plan simple, Schaer said. The current plan is to put the station close to Starr Road a few hundred feet from the intersection to keep down the amount of landscaping the district will have to put in. “There’s a lot of property here we don’t have to develop,” he said. “What you’re looking at here is the result of two months of discussion.”

The new station as currently planned would have five engine bays, a decontamination room, a shop, equipment storage, a meeting room double the size of the current one, a kitchen, a laundry room and a physical training room. With those amenities it could also serve as a shelter in an emergency, said Chief Keith Yamane.

Volunteer firefighter David VanDerostyne said having things like a physical training room will also help attract new volunteers. “Where’s the nearest gym around here?” he said. “A lot of us are planning to donate our equipment from home.”

The new station would also include a few small sleeping rooms so the district could start a residential program. Currently volunteers must live within a certain area so they are quickly available for calls. “If they live too far away and we get a call, they’re really no good to you,” Yamane said. But if the station had a place for people to sleep, people from all over the area could come and do an overnight shift at the station. Yamane said he has gotten several calls from people interested in volunteering with the district, but they don’t live close enough to be a traditional volunteer.

The neighbors at the meeting seemed to like the station plan, but questioned how it would be paid for. The estimated cost of the steel-sided building is $2 million. “The price of steel has gone up dramatically,” Yamane said.

The estimated bond cost for a $100,000 home would be $52 a year for a 15-year bond or $61 a year for a 20-year bond. The commissioners must decide by mid-August whether to put it on the November ballot.

Commissioner Bob Neu said the district should go out to bid as soon as possible while local contractors are still “hungry” for work. “If we wait much longer, we’re going to end up paying a lot more,” he said.

“Where does that leave us if the bond doesn’t pass?” asked resident Jim Ball. “Can’t do it,” said Commissioner Clayton Andersen.

The district must get a bond, Yamane said. “The most we can get a loan for is $1 million,” he said. “We can’t build half a station. This is what we need. This is what it costs.”

“I think it would be very nice,” said resident Myron Wicks. “I think it’s something we need. Two million doesn’t seem like an awful lot when you look at what you’re getting.”


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