Freeland fire station planning moving ahead

"Fire District 3 Chief Don Smith expressed optimism Thursday night that the new Freeland fire station Highway 525 and Cameron Road could be built by the end of this year.He and the architect took plans to Island County Public Works in Coupeville this week for a pre-application meeting and left very hopeful that the project will not be impeded by undue red tape.I was impressed by their efficiency, brevity and thoroughness, Smith said. Commissioners Mike Helland, Bill Benjamin and Bob Elliot reacted with surprise because of difficulties they had getting the nearly-finished Saratoga station approved by the county.I couldn't believe it, Smith said of his positive experience in Coupeville.Did you go to the right courthouse? asked former FD 3 commissioner Gary Gabelein, who was in the audience.It was whiz-bang meeting, Smith responded. Everything the county requested was all very doable.Two representatives from the Friends of Freeland group, Jeff Hornsby and Vince Johnson, attended the meeting and asked the commissioners to consider a pocket park as part of the Freeland station project.The commissioners agreed a small park should be possible, but only after the fire station itself is completed. Do it after we finish our fire station, Smith said, inviting the men back to comment on the site plan.The two Friends of Freeland also asked about the Friends acquiring the old fire station as a community center facility. They were told that if the fire district ever disposes of the property there's a clear procedure that must be followed. As for the long-awaited Saratoga station, Smith said, We are very close to a punch list, which will finalize the project. But first he wants to settle some issues surrounding payment to local contractors and consult with neighbors about the color of the large garage doors. The neighbors had asked for red, but the doors come in white.Smith said the district's architect is working on plans to remodel the Clinton station. He expects that project to cost about $100,000 and be done concurrently with the Freeland project.Further down the road is a new district headquarters in the Bayview area. Smith has his eye on a large parcel of land between Coles and Maxwelton roads, but he said that may not work out due to its rural forest zoning. He said a fire station would be a perfect use for the property, and much of it could be left as open space. But as far as he knows, a fire station is not even on the list of doable things in the rural forest zone.Commissioner Helland said the county should provide special consideration for such public-benefit projects in its zoning rules. Smith will further check on the zoning regulations before pursuing possible property acquisition. "

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