Freeland deputies moving to fire station

On Thursday night, Island County Fire District 3's commissioners made Sheriff Mike Hawley a deal he couldn't refuse.

The deal is this: With the district's previous plans to build a central fire station in Freeland downscaled, along with a plan to make space for a sheriff's precinct in the building, the former Freeland fire station on East Harbor Road will now be sheriff's office's South Precinct.

At the FD3 commissioners meeting for the proposal, Hawley accepted the fire district's offer of a long-term lease with an option to purchase the property at its assessed value. The county will probably fund the cost of remodeling.

During the meeting, a partnership between the the fire district and sheriff's office was approved. Representing the sheriff's office at the the meeting was Hawley and Lt. Evan Tingsted, as well as Island County Commissioner Mac McDowell. McDowell told the fire commissioners he liked the idea of moving the South Precinct -- currently located in a mall just off Freeland's Main Street -- into the old fire station.

"From the taxpayers' point of view it's a good thing," he said.

The lease agreement will just cover the district's costs of owning the building.

"The fire district will not profit from the lease; the purpose is to benefit the community," said FD3 Chief Don Smith.

The next step in the process is to have the building inspected out by an architect to make sure it is structurally sound, and to estimate the cost of a remodel.

McDowell said that even after paying for remodelling, the county will save money. The sheriff's office currently pays $2,000 per month for its rental location.

"Over time, this arrangement with the fire district will actually cost the taxpayers less than if we continue leasing space," McDowell said.

The idea originally came from Gary Hess, an engineer with Island County Public Works, who brokered the project with Smith.

They took the idea to the district commissioners and to Hawley the pairing was formed.

The fire district recently offered three of its properties for sale, the stations at Freeland, Bush Point and Saratoga. Both Bush Point and Saratoga sold, but the high bidder for the Freeland property backed out. The district was asking $144,394 for the Freeland site.

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