Building begins on fire station

Work on a new Central Whidbey Island Fire and Rescue station has finally begun.

Work on a new Central Whidbey Island Fire and Rescue station has finally begun, five years after voters approved a bond to fund the project.

Construction prices have increased significantly since the bond was passed, however, meaning fire district personnel will be tasked with scrounging up additional funds as the project progresses.

The project officially began Thursday afternoon in a brief groundbreaking ceremony that was delayed by firefighters needing to respond to a call. The old fire station, located at 1164 Race Road in Coupeville, will be demolished and the new station built from scratch.

Steve Hutchinson, chairperson for the district’s board of commissioners, said the fire department has outgrown the current station. The original plan was to expand the existing station — something the district has done several times since the building was first constructed in 1992 — but district personnel determined it would cost less to build an entirely new station.

The bond approved by voters in November of 2017 is for around $5 million, the estimated cost of construction at the time. Now, district personnel estimate the total cost will come to around $7 million. Deputy Chief Jerry Helm is working with Rep. Rick Larsen’s office to find and apply for grants that could cover the increased cost of the project.

The new station will include expanded bays to allow for work on the larger engines and crew quarters in the building. The current crew quarters, located in a small trailer behind the station, were “temporary quarters 20 years ago,” according to Fire Commissioner Paul Messner. Having improved quarters located in the building should shorten response times in case of emergencies, Hutchinson said.

Fire Chief Ed Hartin said the new station was the most important project identified in a 2014 district facilities study.

“We’re really happy that we’re moving forward,” he said.

Construction is expected to last six to 12 months.