Project architect asked for updated cost estimates
Fire district commissioners have accepted a floor plan for a new fire station that Okanogan County Fire District 6 hopes to build in Winthrop.
District 6 commissioners have asked the architect to provide cost estimates for the new station, which is very similar to a previous plan, although slightly smaller. The design under consideration is for a station that is 11,954 square feet, compared to a building of 12,842 square feet that was proposed about seven years ago.
The district is employing the same Spokane architect — George Watson of Watson & Herres — who developed plans for the earlier proposal. It made financial sense to continue working with the same architect rather than starting over with someone new, said District Chief Cody Acord. “He had the plans, is familiar with what we need, and knows the history of what we’ve done in the past,” said Acord.
For the past 10 years, fire district officials have been involved in planning and proposals for a new station to replace a building on Englar Street that is rented by the district from the town of Winthrop. District officials say the station is so small and cramped that it jeopardizes the health and safety of firefighters.
A proposal developed in 2012 to build a 12,842-square-foot station at a projected cost of about $2.4 million drew criticism from some district residents as too large and expensive. Some residents also criticized the district’s leaders at the time — including then-Fire Chief Don Waller and commission chairman Roy Reiber — for not providing the public enough information or opportunity to give input on the fire station plans.
A property tax levy increase to fund the new station was rejected by voters in 2014. Waller has since retired and Reiber was defeated in his bid for re-election to the fire district commission in 2015.
At the request of commissioners last year, Acord developed a needs assessment to detail for commissioners and for the public what should be included in a new station. The assessment was provided to the architect in developing the new building plans, Acord said.
The station design includes bays for six fire vehicles, including engines, tenders, brush trucks and rescue vehicles. It provides a separate storage area for firefighter turnout gear to prevent contamination from fire scenes from entering public spaces in the building. It also includes a decontamination room to reduce firefighter exposure to toxins released during fires.
The floor plan provides storage and maintenance areas for saws, fire hoses and air packs; an area to store and fill breathing air bottles; and a radio equipment room. It includes a kitchen, dorm room, library, and a multipurpose room that provides training space, Acord said. The floor plan includes a meeting room/emergency operations center, and offices for the chief, assistant chiefs and a secretary.
Plans call for stick frame construction with board-and-batten siding, and a pitched roof, Acord said.
Acord said he has asked the architect “to look at the least expensive way to build, with a breakdown of the cost estimate” so that commissioners can consider ways to cut costs if necessary. He said he hopes to have cost estimates from the architect by the next commission meeting.
The district plans to build the new station on property it owns on Horizon Flats Road in Winthrop. Commissioners created a citizen advisory committee three years ago to evaluate potential station sites in Winthrop. The committee was formed in response to citizens’ requests to be given more input in district affairs, and questions about the suitability of the district-owned property for a new fire station. The steep, curving road that accesses the district property was a among concerns raised by the public.
The committee evaluated 16 properties and found three that met the district’s needs, including the 5-acre parcel on Horizon Flats that the district purchased about nine years ago. Due to financing and other considerations, the district decided the property it owns is the best option.
An environmental assessment for the site required under the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) has been completed for submission to the Town of Winthrop, Acord said. As part of the SEPA process, the district worked with the state Department of Natural Resources “to mitigate for the presence of western gray squirrels,” Acord said.
The projected cost of constructing the previously proposed station, according to the architect’s estimates, was $2.4 million. But bids received for the project in 2015 came in much higher than that, ranging from $3.6 million to $4.2 million — well beyond the district’s capacity to finance without an increase in the district’s property tax levy.