Freeland fire headquarters reconsidered

"Fire District 3 officials are reconsidering old plans to build a new fire station and district headquarters in Freeland.After district volunteers recently voiced long-held concerns over moving district headquarters to a site at Highway 525 and Cameron Road in Freeland, the district commissioners and command staff are looking at other options.Speaking to the commissioners Thursday night, Chief Don Smith said it may be best to keep district headquarters in Bayview, which is at the district's geographical center.This is the hub. This is the center of the spokes, Smith said. The Bayview station has long doubled as district headquarters.Ten years ago, the district purchased acreage near the intersection of Highway 525 and Cameron Road with the intention of building a new fire station and ambulance headquarters. Those plans stalled when a bond issue to pay for the move failed to gain voter approval. But the idea lived on. As recently as last month, the district still had preliminary plans for the Freeland site to build that station, along with a new district headquarters, office space for the Island County Sheriff's Department, and training and classroom facilities. Under that plan, the district would have also closed the Bush Point Fire Station.Smith said Thursday that the old Freeland station on Harbor Avenue is undeniably in need of replacement, but that goal could be accomplished at the present station site. The district owns a second lot adjacent to the current station, which would allow room to build a new station.As for the district headquarters and a new sheriff's precinct office, Smith said the district should begin looking in the Bayview area for land.The reconsideration of the district's plans for Freeland are sudden, admitted Chief Smith. So sudden, in fact, that Commissioner Bill Benjamin had no idea it was happening.We're changing big gears. This is the first I've heard of this, he said. Smith and the commissioners did not say that plans for a district headquarters in Freeland is totally out the window. But Smith said now is a good time to think about options.It's time to pull the top off the box and rethink the thing from the sky, he said.If the district did decide to simply rebuild the old Freeland station, Smith said it would probably keep the Bush Point Fire Station open as a sub-station, with slightly decreased equipment and staffing.The board of commissioners set no time table for considering its station development options."

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