North Whidbey fire district bids on car dealership

North Whidbey Fire and Rescue is hoping to have a new administration building located on Highway 20.

The commissioners decided during a Tuesday morning special meeting to make an offer for the former Whidbey Island Mazda dealership on the northern edge of the city.

Fire district officials didn’t provide an exact dollar amount they are going to offer, but it will be lower than the $1.95 million listed price. The Whidbey Island Mazda dealership closed in August.

If the offer is accepted, the former car dealership will become the administration building and training facility for the fire district. Whether it will also serve as a fire station remains an unanswered question.

Fire district officials are busy discussing the number of fire stations they should operate and where they should be located. Currently seven stations are located within the fire district boundaries, which covers North Whidbey Island outside of Oak Harbor from Deception Pass to Libbey Road.

Commissioners discussed the possibility of reducing the number of open stations in the future to six or even five. However, having fewer stations poses advantages and disadvantages.

“You cut down expenses by having less stations, but you increase response times,” Koorn said during the meeting. He said it would be crucial to maintain the district’s paid on-call program to ensure 24-hour staffing at two of the district’s stations.

Officials are considering eliminating the stations at Taylor, Silver Lake and Polnell roads and building a new station in the Strawberry Point area. The fire district may also expand the Cornet Bay Road station to include sleeping quarters for firefighters. For the south end of the district, stations would be located at Monroe Landing Road and at least one other station on either Zylstra Road or Van Dam Road. The old station at San de Fuca has already been closed.

If the fire district acquires the Mazda dealership, it will have some firefighting drawbacks.

Koorn pointed out it would take firefighters longer to travel through Oak Harbor if they worked out of the Highway 20 site as opposed to their current station on Heller Road, which is more centrally located.

If the district contracts to five stations, it shouldn’t affect homeowner insurance policies because stations would be placed within five miles of all homes in the district, which is the maximum distance needed to maintain the current rating.

With the plans to purchase the Mazda dealership moving forward, the effort to build a new station at Van Dam Road is on hold, at least for now. The commissioners decided to focus efforts on learning what work needs to be done to improve the Cornet Bay station located near Deception Pass.

North Whidbey Fire and Rescue has saved nearly $2.8 million to pay for building construction.

Even though the fire district has millions of dollars saved up, officials ran a levy proposal several years ago that voters decisively rejected — twice.

Koorn said the levy increase would have paid for the replacement of the Heller Road Fire Station and replaced fire engines. With the levy failure, Koorn said the fire district rehabilitated several fire engines to extend their life. To bring in more revenue, the fire district contracted with Whidbey General Hospital for basic life support transports and started charging persons who cause car accidents.

While the recent actions helped the district save money, Koorn said after the Tuesday morning special meeting that the fire district may ask voters for a levy increase at a future date.

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