Bond proposal to appear on November election ballot
COUPEVILLE, WASH. – The Board of Fire Commissioners for Central Whidbey Island Fire & Rescue unanimously passed a resolution asking voters to approve a bond during the November General Election. Funding would be used to renovate a fire station to improve emergency response times, improve firefighter health and safety, and replace three fire engines that are approaching the end of their usable lives. The bond would cost $0.22 per $1,000 of assessed property value, or approximately $5.50 per month ($66 per year) for the owner of a $300,000 home.
Call volumes for the agency are up 14.43% from January to June of 2017 when compared to the same time last year. In the past seven years, call volumes have increased almost 31%. The plan is to use bond funding to increase the size of Station 53 from 5,000 to 10,000 square feet.
“Our call volumes have increased to the point where we need more space for daily operations,” said Fire Chief Ed Hartin. “Adding space to the station will ensure it’s adequate to meet the growing demand for service by our community.”
Central Whidbey Island Fire & Rescue considered several options for its facility needs and emergency apparatus required to respond to higher call volumes. Originally, the fire district had hoped to make improvements to at least two stations. Concern about cost made the Board of Fire Commissioners reconsider its options, and focus on just one station plus replacing three engines. The fire district and its architects determined that renovating an existing station saved taxpayers almost $1 million compared to building a new facility.
“This is the right thing to do,” said Chief Hartin. “We will receive twice the space for 17 percent less cost than if we built a new facility. This saves taxpayers approximately $1 million.”
Station 53 on Race Road was built 25 years ago. Bond funding would add sleeping quarters in the main building to help firefighters respond to calls faster. It also would upgrade mechanical systems and decontamination units to improve firefighter health and safety. These improvements reduce exposure of emergency personnel to known carcinogens and other cancer-causing agents that accumulate on protective clothing, a leading cause of death for firefighters.
A portion of the bond funding would be used to purchase three fire engines to replace others that are near the end of their usable lives, as well. As emergency apparatus ages, it becomes more expensive to repair, difficult to find parts, and less reliable when needed during emergency calls. Replacing these three fire engines also will protect the fire district’s insurance rating, which is linked to the amount homeowners pay in insurance premiums.
Central Whidbey Island Fire & Rescue has completed both a Capital Projects and a Facilities Plan, that outline the steps needed to meet the demand for emergency services in the years ahead. Both documents – and specific information about the bond proposal – are available on its web site at http://www.cwfire.org/bond.