By Ann McCreary
A Spokane architectural firm has been selected by Okanogan County Fire District 6 to design a new fire station on property owned by the district on Horizon Flats Road in Winthrop.
Watson & Herres of Spokane was chosen by fire district commissioners last week to develop plans for a station, which the district wants to build to replace the current station on Englar Street in Winthrop. Fire officials say cramped quarters at that facility put firefighters at risk and the station doesn’t have adequate space for fire trucks and other equipment.
The district earlier this year dropped plans for a new fire hall based on a “modular” building design, prefabricated off-site, that was anticipated to be less expensive than traditional construction methods. The district had estimated the project would cost $2 million-$3 million, but received a construction estimate of $4.6 million.
Commission Chairman Roy Reiber said the district will ask Watson & Herres to “take a look at what we had proposed earlier” to come up with the station design.
Earlier plans called for a 12,000-square-foot station that would house six engines, and provide vehicle maintenance facilities, meeting rooms, storage space and sleeping quarters. The plans also included a large paved area for driver training and firefighter training exercises.
Watson & Herres “say things can be built a great deal cheaper than what we had planned on, and we’ve looked at some of their buildings and they’re nice,” said Reiber.
Fire District 6 is a special taxing district, and proposes to increase its property tax levy to raise money for the new station. The levy increase would need to be approved by voters living in the district.
“Ideally next fall  we’ll run a levy election,” Reiber said.
Don Waller, District 6 fire chief, said the architect will attend the district’s next meeting at 7 p.m. on Sept. 9 to go over the contract.
“I will be sending him a topographic survey next week and he will start working on site plans. We should be able to establish a time frame at that meeting,” Waller said.
Waller said the architectural fee will be 7 percent of the construction cost.
In meetings earlier this year, residents of the Horizon Flats neighborhood questioned whether that site is appropriate for a new fire station, citing concerns about access, traffic, noise, lighting and loss of trees.
Residents also complained that the district had not provided enough information to the public about the proposed project.
The district purchased the 5-acre parcel on Horizon Flats in 2010. The property was on county land, but was annexed into Winthrop to access town water and sewer services.
Fire District 6 provides fire, rescue, and emergency response services in unincorporated areas from Gold Creek to Lost River, including the communities of Carlton and Mazama.
The district also serves Twisp and Winthrop under contracts.