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Mazda property nixed, Heller Rd. likely for fire building

After weeks of discussions, North Whidbey Fire and Rescue is pulling out of negotiations to purchase the old Whidbey Island Mazda dealership on the north end of Oak Harbor.

Fire Chief Marv Koorn said his staff couldn’t negotiate an affordable purchase price for the property, which includes two buildings and is listed at $1.95 million.

“Right now, we didn’t think it was a wise move,” Koorn said. Rather, officials will move forward with plans for a new administration building at the district’s station on Heller Road.

North Whidbey Fire and Rescue considered buying the Mazda dealership, which closed last summer and has remained vacant ever since, and convert it into an administration and training facility. It wasn’t clear if officials would also turn it into a fire station.

Koorn said the two sides were several hundred thousand dollars apart on agreeing on a sale price. He said the fire district offered as much as $1.5 million for the property, but the owners were only willing to go as low as $1.8 million. The high price tag, plus the money needed to renovated the buildings on the property to meet the district’s needs, would have been too great an investment for the district.

“At this point, it’s a done deal,” Koorn said of the decision to move forward with a new building at the Heller Road Fire Station.

With the negotiations for the Mazda dealership finished, plans for replacing the current administration building are starting. He said he’ll apply for a conditional use permit with the city of Oak Harbor this week. He said the city had annexed the property and the district needs the permit to build a replacement building that will serve as office space and provide a meeting room for firefighters.

He hopes the conditional use permit will be approved by the city sometime in the next 120 days, and the district can start accepting bids on the construction project in early 2011.

North Whidbey Fire and Rescue has set aside approximately $2.8 million to pay for building projects.

Koorn didn’t provide a dollar amount on the Heller Road station project. He hopes the price would be less than $2 million. That way the fire district could invest in other station improvements.

The district is considering building a new station on Van Dam Road and replacing the station on Cornet Bay Road.

Officials are studying exactly how many stations the district needs to serve its residents. Koorn said that evaluation has to ensure response times remain low while considering the most economic way to operate stations.

“We’re trying to look at what is most cost efficient,” Koorn said.

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