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Abandoned Whidbey Island Mazda site could house fire engines

Leaders at North Whidbey Fire and Rescue are looking at new stations to serve its community.

While plans are being developed to build two replacement stations, officials are looking at the possibility of purchasing the Whidbey Island Mazda dealership site on Highway 20 that closed last summer.

Marv Koorn, chief of North Whidbey Fire and Rescue, said district staff toured the facility but no offers have been made on purchasing the property.

He said he doesn’t know yet if the fire district will purchase the property or how it would be configured as a fire station or which station it would replace. That will be one of the topics discussed Tuesday, Oct. 19, 11 a.m., at the Heller Road Fire Station when North Whidbey Fire and Rescue commissioners discuss the fire district’s long-range plan during a special meeting.

The Mazda dealership closed its doors last August and the property located on the northern edge of Oak Harbor remains vacant. It was the third dealership to close in recent years — Whidbey Island Ford closed its doors in 2008 and Frontier Chevrolet did the same in 2009.

Chief Koorn said if the district does end up purchasing the land, it would have to obtain a conditional use permit from the city of Oak Harbor to allow it to be used as a station.

North Whidbey Fire and Rescue has been saving for years to pay for construction of new stations.

According to a budget approved by the commissioners during their Tuesday evening meeting, the fire district has budgeted to have nearly $2.8 million saved to pay for building projects.

North Whidbey Fire and Rescue is projected to have a $5.8 million budget in 2011, which is up from a $5.49 million budget in 2010.

The fire district, which basically serves Whidbey Island outside of Oak Harbor from Libbey Road to Deception Pass, has seven stations serving residents. Officials are considering whether to reduce the number of buildings to six or five stations.

Koorn said staff is looking to build a new fire station on Van Dam Road and to replace the headquarters station on Heller Road.

The Van Dam Road Fire Station would replace the recently inactivated San de Fuca station and the Zylstra Road station. it would cost approximately $500,000 to build. A new Heller Road facility will cost approximately $2 million.

Another factor officials have to consider when deciding locations is the distance homes are located from emergency facilities. Koorn said that fire stations should be located within five miles of every property owner’s home. Otherwise homeowners run the risk of seeing their insurance rates skyrocket.

The fire district is still going through the permitting process for both proposed stations. Koorn said the district had to show the Van Dam Road site has potable water before officials can move forward with permitting. For the Heller Road station project to move forward, the city of Oak Harbor has to approve a conditional use permit.

But before that happens, officials need to figure out if they want a former car dealership to serve as its newest station.

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