It’s back to square one for Okanogan County Fire District 6 commissioners, who decided last week that a new Winthrop fire station will be built on the Horizon Flats property purchased eight years ago by the district.
Almost two years ago, district commissioners appointed a citizens committee to evaluate potential sites for a new station in or around Winthrop. The committee was created in response to questions from the public about whether there might be a better location than the district-owned property.
The committee evaluated 16 properties and found three that met the district’s needs, including the 5-acre parcel on Horizon Flats. Over the past year, district commissioners narrowed their preferences to that site and another 3.2-acre parcel on White Avenue next to Little Star Montessori School.
News that the town of Winthrop is negotiating to purchase part of that property for a new library was a factor in the commissioners’ decision to rule it out, said Chief Cody Acord.
In previous discussions, commissioners also expressed concern that the White Avenue site was within a zone that would require compliance with Winthrop westernization ordinances, “which would add more requirements and potential cost to site construction and operation,” Acord said.
Financing purchase of the White Avenue property was also problematic, because that property would cost more than what the district could hope to get from sale of the Horizon Flats parcel. And the larger Horizon Flats property would allow more space for current and future needs, commissioners said.
So, after about two years of exploring other options, the district has decided to stick with its original location. The district has been working to complete a State Environmental Policy Act checklist for the property to submit to the town. Acord said he hopes that will be completed by the end of the year.
Commissioners are also going back to the drawing board to develop plans for a new fire station building. They have asked Acord to develop a needs assessment to help guide design. “We’re making sure what we want to put inside the building is what we actually need,” Acord said. He said he will evaluate needs for things like training areas, storage requirements, and space for trucks and equipment.
“We’re trying to start back at the beginning and figure out what are the needs we have for the building,” Acord said.
The district currently rents a building from Winthrop on Englar Street. But fire officials say the district has outgrown that facility and the cramped quarters pose risks for firefighters.
For the past 10 years, district officials have been involved in proposals and plans for a new station to replace the Englar Street station. A proposal developed in 2012 to build a 12,500-square-foot station at a cost of about $2.4 million drew public criticism as too expensive, and some people questioned whether the Horizon Flats property, located on a hill with a curving road, was the best location. A levy increase to fund the new station was defeated by voters in 2014.