Work begins soon at Winthrop site
By Don Nelson
The Okanogan County Fire District 6 board of commissioners has awarded a contract for construction of a new fire hall in Winthrop, with the expectation that the facility will be completed a little more than a year from now.
At a special meeting last week, the commissioners awarded the contract to Blew’s Construction Inc. of Spokane Valley. Blew’s was one of three bidders on the project. The bids were opened on April 13 and were then reviewed by the project architects, Spokane-based Watson & Herres.
The contract is for a total of $5,043,000, district Chief Cody Acord said this week. That includes an alternate option to add another vehicle bay, Acord said. Blew’s has experience building facilities for other fire districts in the state.
The chief said the building’s cost – while higher than originally anticipated – is covered by funds the district has on hand, a portion of from a grant by the Betti Foundation, and anticipated proceeds from a 20-year bond made possible when district voters approved a levy lid lift in 2020 to help pay for the station.
Acord said the 2.25% interest rate on the bond that the district will pay is lower than was expected, even in a favorable market for bond sales. That means the district will pay less than anticipated over the 20-year period.
The bid documents specified that the new fire hall has to be substantially completed in 11 months after construction begins. Acord said site work will start soon and construction could begin in June.
“Initial conversations with the architect indicate that 11 months will be enough time to complete the project,” Acord said in an email.
Acord said earlier that the bid requests specified that costs such as excavation, utilities, landscaping and paving would be included in addition to the actual structure.
The district plans to build an 11,954-square-foot station on a 5-acre parcel in the Horizon Flats neighborhood, a parcel District 6 acquired years ago in anticipation of building a new facility.
At one time the commissioners considered other potential sites in Winthrop but concluded they could not find one as suitable.
The new fire will include six vehicle bays, a meeting room, a multipurpose room, a dormitory, a dining room, a kitchen, offices and space for firefighter training.
The bid award would culminates more than a decade of efforts by District 6 to replace the cramped and outdated fire hall on Englar Street in Winthrop, a 4,400-square-foot building that the district rents from the town of Winthrop. Fire officials have said for years that the district has outgrown that facility and the cramped quarters jeopardize firefighter safety.
In an April 2020 special election, the district asked voters to approve a property tax increase of 17.5 cents over the existing levy of 65.5 cents, resulting in a permanent levy of 83 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. That measured passed with nearly 70% support. The tax increase will be assessed starting this year.
The district also received a $1.8 million grant from the Bruno and Evelyne Betti Foundation for vocational training for firefighters – contingent upon passage of the levy request. About $500,000 can be used for the station construction. In addition, the district will allocate money from its operating budget for the new building.
District 6 provides fire services from Gold Creek to Lost River, covering 300 square miles in the Methow Valley, and provides services to the towns of Carlton, Twisp (through a contract), Winthrop and Mazama.