Estimate is $4.4 million for new Bayview fire district facility

New Fire District 3 Chief Rusty Palmer supports Bayview as the site of a new central facility, but says district officials plan to move ahead slowly with the project. - Roy Jacobson / The Record
New Fire District 3 Chief Rusty Palmer supports Bayview as the site of a new central facility, but says district officials plan to move ahead slowly with the project.
— image credit: Roy Jacobson / The Record

The preliminary estimate for a new Island County Fire District 3 central facility at Bayview came in on the low end, but district officials remain cautious.

“The commissioners want a deliberate, well-thought-out process,” said Fire Chief Rusty Palmer. “We’ve got a lot of work to do.”

Palmer said he has work to do in other areas, too, as he settles into his new job, including improved energy efficiency, volunteer networking and disaster management.

This past week, the district’s architect told commissioners that the proposed Bayview facility would cost about $4.4 million. Previous discussion of the project had put estimates at between $4 million and $8 million.

Proposed is a 10,000-square-foot, two-bay fire station, a 5,400-square-foot administration building and a 400-square-foot training tower.

These would be built on a 9.4 acre L-shaped parcel owned by the district between Good Cheer Food Bank and Bayview School.

Carletti Architects of Mount Vernon, which also designed the Freeland and Langley fire stations, is working on the Bayview project.

Commissioners put off signing a contract for construction drawings until Palmer comes up with a marketing plan for the project, the chief said. He said he expects to present that plan to commissioners at their next meeting April 8.

Palmer said the district delayed going to the voters last year to approve a 25-cent levy increase to finance the project because of the faltering economy, and officials still aren’t certain a levy lift anytime soon is the way to go.

“We know Bayview’s the right place for a central facility,” Palmer said. “We just have to make sure about when’s the right time to do it.”

He said that based on his years of experience building fire stations at his previous district in Wyoming, the cost estimate for a Bayview facility is reasonable.

“But we don’t just knock them down and start over,” Palmer said. “The process should be a long one, to let people have their say.”

Meanwhile, the district has continued with the permit process for the Bayview project, and has put up an architect’s drawing of the proposed layout on the site.

Palmer, 57, spent 33 years with the Jackson Hole, Teton County Fire Department before taking over at South Whidbey last month from retired chief Dan Stout.

Palmer said he has been reviewing all aspects of his new department.

“We’ve given ourselves permission to question everything we do,” Palmer said. “People have come up with some great ideas.”

He said an updated disaster-management plan “is high on my list.” The convergence of fault lines under Whidbey Island may indicate the possibility of a 9.0 earthquake similar to the one that hit Chile this past month.

Palmer said some estimates say there’s a 27-percent chance of a quake similar to the one in Chile happening here in the next 50 years. He said he plans to provide more emergency-management training “so we can be ready for the big one.”

“I’d rather be ready and not have it happen, than the other way around,” he said.

Palmer said he also is putting renewed emphasis on recycling, and in implementing a family-care plan for volunteers to make certain they’re able to respond to emergencies knowing their family needs are being monitored.

He also is pushing for more energy efficiency to save taxpayer money, and is surveying all of the district’s buildings.

“We’re changing the human piece first,” he chuckled. “Shut the doors and turn off the lights.”

Fire District 3 covers 66 square miles and 54 miles of shoreline from south of Greenbank to Clinton. There’s a paid staff of six and about 100 volunteers staffing stations at Freeland, Clinton, Maxwelton, Langley, Saratoga and Bayview.

Assessed value of the property in the district is about $4.4 billion. There are nearly 10,000 registered voters among a permanent population of about 14,000.

The district’s tax-supported operating budget this year is about $1.8 million.

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