Fire district needs money

Chief Marv Koorn told North Whidbey Fire and Rescue commissioners at last Tuesday’s meeting that plans are proceeding for the new Heller Road station, but there is good news and bad news.

The estimated cost for construction of the new 15,219-square-foot building has been listed at just over $3.8 million, but Koorn said this amount does not include architectural fees and surveying.

“When you add in that money plus the improvements the city of Oak Harbor wants to make on the infrastructure in the area of the new station, including the widening of Heller Road, the cost jumps to $4.2 million,” he said.

Right now, the district has approximately $2.8 million earmarked for the project.

As a result, the district has to make some changes in its plans and Koorn presented several alternative ideas including reducing the size of the building and searching for ways to raise additional money.

One of the plans would be eliminating the inside bays for parking fire equipment.

That would reduce the building’s size to 12,125 square feet and at a cost of $250 per square foot, the price tag would be a bit over $3 million.

Another plan would eliminate both the bays and the sleeping quarters, reducing the size to 11,469 square-feet and the price to $2.8 million.

Even this plan leaves the district $500,000 short.

“What we could do is construct the building in stages like one of our original plans, and add the sleeping quarters later,” Koorn said.

As far as obtaining more funding, Koorn said options include government loans or sending a proposal to taxpayers.

Chairman Bruce Carman asked how long it would take to pay off the government load and Koorn estimated five to six years.

“I think we would have that much time because we have no major purchases, such as fire trucks, budgeted until 2013,” he said.

Taxpayers could be asked to fund one of several options, including building the new Heller Road station only, building the Heller Road station and combining stations 26 and 28, or building the Heller Road station, combining stations 26 and 28 and remodeling station 21.

“We could ask the voters to (increase) the levy rate from the current .647 per $1,000, which is down from 2005 when the rate was .857 per $1,000,” Koorn said. “This would bring in an additional $198,331 per year, or we could go to $1 per $1,000 which would mean $700,108 per year.”

Carman recommended holding a workshop Sept. 20 to further discuss all the proposals.

“We need the support of the firefighters because we are probably going to have to raise the levy and this means we have to sell the idea to the taxpayers,” he said. “We need to get our firefighters to support whatever plan we decide on.”

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