It takes careful planning to meet the current and future emergency needs of our community as it grows. Our community has grown 5.3% since 2010. In that same time period, emergency call volumes have increased 30.68%. That’s why Central Whidbey Island Fire & Rescue has a Capital Projects Plan to replace aging apparatus and equipment before it becomes unreliable. We also have a Facilities Plan and Long-Term Financial Plan to identify where improvements are needed and options for funding.
These three documents have identified aging apparatus that needs replacing and station renovations to reduce response times and improve firefighter health and safety. To protect current firefighters and attract new volunteers, we need to provide them with a safe operating environment. Renovations to Station 53 include upgrading mechanical systems to move diesel exhaust fumes away from personnel inside. It also will provide improved decontamination and storage spaces where firefighters can keep their protective gear. This will reduce their risk of exposure to carcinogens and other contaminants that accumulate on protective clothing at fires and other emergencies.
The district also has an updated strategic plan in place that is supported by these three documents. Together, they provide a guide to develop our annual plan.
Short-term the fire district plans to replace three fire engines and renovate Station 53 on Race Road. Even with regular maintenance, some of our engines are approaching the end of their 25-year life cycle and need replacing. The Facilities Plan also identifies renovations to Station 53 to add space for maintaining apparatus, larger engine bays, and sleeping quarters in the main building to help firefighters respond to calls faster. These improvements will help maintain our fire insurance rating, which impacts the amount homeowners pay in insurance premiums.
Replacing apparatus and renovating stations are significant investments that we cannot fund from operating revenue. It is common for fire districts to fund capital projects with bonds. Bond rates are favorable at the moment, and Central Whidbey Island Fire and Rescue likely will ask voters to approve this type of funding during the November 2017 election. At current market rates, this would cost $0.22 per $1,000 of assessed property value, or approximately $5.50 per month ($66.00 per year) for the owner of a $300,000 home. The $7,376,000 bond would last for 20 years and includes $1,959,000 for the three engines, and $5,417,000 for station renovations and improvements.
Adequate facilities and apparatus are important to community safety. We will post more information to this page as it becomes available. Thank you for your continued support of Central Whidbey Island Fire & Rescue.