By Ross Darling
While the citizens of Twisp do not have an individual vote, they are paying for the same fire protection as Okanogan County Fire District 6 citizens. They will also pay their proportion of the proposed fire station in Winthrop when the levy is finally passed. Taxes will then go up at the next contract between the Town of Twisp and District 6. I urge everyone in the district and Town of Twisp to come to the next commissioners’ meeting and ask any questions and give comments regarding the proposed new fire station in Winthrop. The next meeting is July 8 at the Twisp Fire Station.
The district is hoping to put the new building on the ballot this fall. If you wish to make a comment, now is the time. The cost estimates from the architect have arrived and are estimated at $3,848,138. This amount is to be financed over 20 years. The current bond market on municipal bonds is 2.15 percent. Using this interest rate, this brings the total cost to the taxpayer up to $5,502,837 over 20 years. An additional $1 million has already been spent on the project over the preceding years. So when we finish, we will be at about $6,500,000 and the building will still not be finished inside according to the architect’s list of items not included in the building.
Commissioner Les Stokes was asked if he would vote for the building. He said, “no.” When asked why, he stated the voters are not in favor of the building — some because of the building itself; some because of the location; and others a combination of the two.
Commissioner Stokes was nice enough to provide me with a tentative floor plan of the building because the district has not yet posted one to their website. I thought I would give you some sizes and numbers from the floor plan. Please remember that the reason given for the need for the new building was to provide proper clearances around trucks in the truck bay area to insure a safe area for fire fighters between and around the trucks. The taxpayers have always agreed with this but has twice turned down the levy because of what the building has turned into, not because they don’t accept the need for a new station.
The present building the district operates from is around 4,000 square feet. The proposed building is about 12,000 square feet. The truck bays in the proposed building are large, open and take care of the safety issue which was always stated as the problem with the existing station. The truck bay area in the proposed building is 4,200 square feet and is needed for the six trucks it will house. The remaining 7,700 square feet contains 26 rooms with various functions and uses.
Here are a few examples of these spaces:
• Kitchen and dining room, 527 square feet. The kitchen equipment is not provided in the bid estimate.
• Meeting room, 900 square feet.
• Multi-purpose room, over 1,000 square feet. It would seem if the room doesn’t really have a purpose, as the name suggests, it is probably not needed.
• A 420-square-foot bunk room, even though we don’t have firemen staying overnight and probably won’t have for many years, because of the cost of having a 24-hour manned station. A bunk room also requires a sprinkler system for all 12,000 square feet of the building, quite costly to just have bunks that aren’t used.
The list goes on for the 22 other rooms. Some items such as the ventilated room where the firefighter outer clothing is stored, are critical and must be included. Other areas such as the library, four office spaces and the spaces listed above are questionable as to how much they are needed and whether the taxpayer is willing to pay for them.
I recommend voters to look at the new public works building in Twisp. This building is 6,000-7,000 square feet and cost about $800,000. It is an all-steel, shed roof building with truck bays; storage; reception area; lunch room; and ADA bathroom and office.
District 6 already has over $1 million committed and only has a piece of property which is partially paid for to show for it. Twenty-six rooms do not come cheap if they are not needed for the type of fire department you presently have or will have for well into the future. Ask yourself, does this station help the Lost River or Gold Creek area very much?
Please voice your opinion so the commissioners know your thoughts. Thank you, firemen and volunteers. Your patience through this process is greatly appreciated as well as your service to the community.
Ross Darling lives in Twisp.