After years of study and passage of a successful bond measure, the city of Oak Harbor is finally buying land for a second fire station.
The purchase of the Swantown Avenue property will be financed with a bond that voters approved last November with 62% of the vote. The bond covers the costs of the land, construction of the station and the purchase of a quint truck, which is a combination of a fire engine and ladder truck. Voters also approved a levy lid lift to cover the operating expenses of the second station, new employees to staff it, replacement of a 24-year-old fire engine and protective equipment and tools.
The second fire station will be built at 1250 Southwest Swantown Avenue. The property is 1.69 acres in size.
During Tuesday’s city council meeting, City Administrator Blaine Oborn said the property was chosen based on a 2016 study that said the optimal location for the station was Swantown Avenue and Heller Street.
“This property is very, very close to that,” Oborn said.
There is a house currently on the land, but it will be torn down. The city is buying the property for $800,000.
Councilmember Bryan Stucky brought up concerns about the hefty price tag.
“Eight hundred thousand dollars is obviously a lot more than we originally thought we might get property for,” he said.
Stucky asked if the station could still be built within the budget of $8 million. Fire Chief Ray Merrill responded that he was reasonably certain that it could be, though he pointed out that the price was a little over $200,000 in 2016.
“By waiting from 2016 to now, the price of the property went up $600,000,” Merrill said.
He added that the department budgeted for an anticipated cost increase of both the quint and the fire station. He said the price of the quint had gone down from an expected $1.3-$1.4 million to $1.087 million.
The second station is being built to reduce response times in the southwest area of the city. The 2016 analysis determined that 24% of Oak Harbor homes are not within the recommended standard of a 1.5 mile radius or a four-minute response time; continued growth in the area since then means that even more homes are outside the radius. The southwest quadrant of Oak Harbor currently has a five and half minute response time.
Stucky asked if all the property options had been considered, including Fort Nugent Park which the city already owns. Merrill responded that building the station on the park was still a possibility, but it would be difficult to do so without taking acreage and parking space from the park. High-tension power lines would also have to be removed.
Councilmemebr Shane Hoffmire, however, said the Swantown location is in the perfect spot to reduce response times in area of the city to four minutes.
“If that station were at Fort Nugent Park, you’re back to five and half minutes again, roughly,” he said.
Council voted unanimously to approve the purchase and sale agreement of the Swantown property.
Communications Manager Sabrina Combs said in a statement that city staff is currently working the process to purchase land and will provide more updates as they become available. People can follow the process by viewing the fire levy playlist on the city’s YouTube channel at youtube.com/cityofoakharbor.