Proposed Bayview fire station estimated at $5.4 million

South Whidbey Fire/EMS Chief Rusty Palmer looks through some paperwork about the estimated $5.4 million proposed new Bayview station Thursday evening.  - Ben Watanabe / The Record
South Whidbey Fire/EMS Chief Rusty Palmer looks through some paperwork about the estimated $5.4 million proposed new Bayview station Thursday evening.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

Building a new fire station in Bayview may cost South Whidbey Fire/EMS nearly $1 million more than the first proposal 10 years ago.

Chief Rusty Palmer told the fire commissioners Thursday night that the district’s hired design firm, Mount Vernon-based Carletti Architects, had a $5.4 million “swag” estimate for the multi-purpose facility. Commissioners were not surprised by the increase from what was once pegged at $4.4 million, and were relieved that it did not come back higher.

The fire station would have dual functions as a staff headquarters and as the new station to serve the center of the fire protection district that stretches south from Possession Point north to Classic Road.

The reworked plan combines the two facilities into one building on the already purchased property between the Good Cheer Food Bank and the Bayview School. Palmer said the new design reduces each facility by about 1,000 square feet and that combining the facilities will reduce excavation costs as only one foundation would be needed.

Nine offices are proposed for the district staff. Currently, South Whidbey Fire/EMS has eight staff members — five chiefs and three administrative assistants. Between the two facilities is a large training room with a smaller adjoining conference room that may have a retractable wall to combine with the training area. In total, the room could seat 100 people — more than the entire district’s current roster of volunteers.

“Once this facility is built, there aren’t any other facilities to build for a long time,” Palmer said.

The two-story structure would have the engine bays and a basement for storage and possibly a fire district workout room on the street level. The second story, above the garage, would contain four sleeping rooms, a room, a bathroom with showers, and a living room for volunteer recreation.

South Whidbey Fire/EMS does not employ a sleeper program in which volunteers spend the night at stations.

The district has public hearings planned for the proposed facility in coming months. The board should hear feedback from the community, Palmer said.

He proposed a councilmanic bond through the Office of the Washington State Treasurer, essentially a low-interest loan that the district could assume without voter approval. It would put the district into debt with a scheduled monthly payback plan over 15 years or 20 years, depending on what the commissioners approve later this year. Palmer said the windows to apply for the bond are June 1 and Dec. 1.

The City of Langley used a much smaller councilmanic bond to partially fund utilities work on Second Street.

Paying back the hefty loan could come out of the fire district’s capital reserve fund. For several decades, the fire commissioners had a policy of putting 25 percent of the levy revenue into the capital fund that pays for new stations and fire engines. In recent years, that amount has swung between $650,000 and $680,000. Palmer said the district could cover the bond payments just from its capital fund without asking taxpayers for any further funding. Palmer also told the commissioners that 23 fire stations were built through the councilmanic bond, and South Whidbey Fire/EMS is the only fire protection agency in Island County that had not used the state’s local option capital asset lending program.

“This is a real safe way for us to go,” Palmer added.

The plan seemed to have general support from the commissioners, who gave Palmer a tacit OK to pursue the plan and review funding options.


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