Delays hamper North Whidbey’s fire district projects

North Whidbey firefighters are showing frustration with the perceived lack of progress on several construction projects.

Leaders at North Whidbey Fire Rescue want to replace the district’s administration building, find a replacement for the Cornet Bay Road station and possibly build a new station on Van Dam Road.

However, those projects have stalled and more than 40 concerned firefighters attended a special North Whidbey Fire and Rescue meeting Monday night at the Heller Road Fire Station.

Firefighter Bill McArthur said he recalls attending the same type meeting five years ago and encouraged the commissioners to move forward with current projects. He was one of a number of firefighters advocating replacing the Cornet Bay Road station, which has become dilapidated in recent years.

However, Fire Chief Marv Koorn said there’s a percolation problem on the property that could prevent a replacement septic system from being installed.

“There’s big issues with the property,” Koorn said, adding that staff isn’t sure whether they can even use the property. The current septic system is located underneath the building’s parking lot.

The fire district is also trying to replace its administration building located at the Heller Road campus.

Officials want a new administration building because the current one is cramped and employees find it difficult to complete their work. Staff has wanted the new building for years, but commissioners placed the project on hold in late 2008 to allow time to re-examine the needs, Koorn said. That process took a year to complete. Since the commissioners signed off on the project, it took more than a year to design the building and obtain the permits. The administration building will cost approximately $2 million.

However, the fire district is having difficulty getting a conditional use permit from the city of Oak Harbor.

Fire district leaders are busy negotiating with city staff about the curb, gutter and drainage requirements that have to be installed in front of the building.

Koorn said the improvements, which also included a wall and a 12-foot-wide planter strip, would initially have added $200,000 to the cost of construction. However, he said the details have changed, which shaved the cost down to approximately $120,000.

He said the district and the city are close to agreeing on details for the conditional use permit. On0ce the permit is approved, the project can go out to bid, which he hopes will take place in March.

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