Central Whidbey Fire & Rescue bond would fund station renovation, rig replacements

Central Whidbey Fire &Rescue is moving ahead with a plan to put a bond before voters next November to pay for station improvements and three new fire engines.

Fire commissioners voted last week to move forward with the plan, deciding on an option that would focus efforts on a major renovation and expansion of Station 53 on Race Road to better accommodate firefighters and apparatus.

The fire district will be asking voters to approve a 20-year, roughly $7.4 million bond that would address its most pressing facility needs and replace three fire engines that are reaching the end of their 25-year life span.

With an estimated levy rate of 20 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value, a homeowner with a $300,000 house would pay about $5 per month to cover the bond.

“We have facility needs at all three of our stations,” said Central Whidbey Fire chief Ed Hartin. “We identified Station 53 here on Race Road as the most pressing. The challenges we have here with space as it relates to programmatic requirements impacts pretty much everything that we do, so this is our No. 1 priority.”

Station 53 is the fire department’s most centrally located station and also serves as its administration headquarters.

The fire district is looking at nearly doubling the size of Station 53 to accommodate apparatus and provide safer storage for contaminated equipment and gear. The plan also would increase sleeping quarters from three to six and provide more office space for administration.

Currently, firefighters who stay overnight sleep in a single-wide mobile home behind the station.

As part of the renovation and expansion, the apparatus bays at the station would nearly double in length, allowing not only more space to park and operate rigs but also to let the department more effectively continue its own cost-saving maintenance.

Fire commissioners also looked at another bond option that would have provided facilities improvements at both Station 53 and Station 54 in Greenbank, but in the end, decided that the needs of Station 53 were greatest.

Fire commissioners Steve Hutchinson and Cheryl Engle motioned to move forward with the Station 53 plan, while Paul Messner opted to abstain, citing his discomfort in not seeing more hard numbers related to construction costs and estimates at this point in the process.

Still, Messner agreed that the work at Station 53, built in 1991 and remodeled in 1999, is long overdue.

The majority vote essentially gave Hartin specific policy direction to continue working on the plan.

The commissioners will need to vote again to pass a resolution to place it on next November’s general election ballot.