Cost increases force some cutbacks
The new Winthrop fire station is expected to be completed mid-summer, but it’ll start as a bare-bones facility with no furniture or landscaping, Okanogan County Fire District 6 Chief Cody Acord said last week.
Construction on the Horizon Flats Road facility — initially slated for completion in June — is a few months behind schedule because of delays in permitting, Acord said. The contractor couldn’t get supplies until all permits were approved, and that, coupled with supply-chain issues, has increased costs for the $4-million project by about $152,000, he said.
The district still expects to move equipment from the current Winthrop station on Englar Street to the new station this summer and will start responding to calls from the new facility in September. But they’ll be working out of a fairly empty building for a while. “It would be nice to have some furniture — we’ll try to use what we have, but won’t be completely outfitted,” Acord said.
To cut costs, the district eliminated furniture, landscaping and some signage, and hasn’t filled a position for a captain at the Winthrop station who left to take another job. If costs continue to increase, the district may have to cut even more, Acord said.
The nearly 12,000-square-foot station sits on a 5-acre parcel on Horizon Flats Road. It will include six vehicle bays, a meeting room, a multipurpose room, dining room, kitchen, offices and training space.
The fire hall will be set up for essential equipment, but won’t be as functional as it could have been until the district gets more money. The building design includes accommodations for firefighters to stay overnight to reduce response times, but that won’t be possible for a while, Acord said.
The district applied for permits for the building and for sewer and water infrastructure in early May 2021. It received the building permit in early September but didn’t get the infrastructure permit for another two months, Acord said. Although they’d gotten bids on materials in May, the contractor couldn’t purchase the materials until the district had the permit in September. By then, prices had already increased.
District 6 was able to do site preparation and install footings before it had the building permits, and that work was completed last summer. But the district had to wait until September to start the next phase, Acord said.
Improvements to Horizon Flats Road are expected to be made next year, Winthrop Town Planner Rocklynn Culp said. Winthrop received an $800,000 grant toward that work and District 6 will contribute matching funds up to $10,000. Material costs have gone up “astronomically” since the town received the grant last fall, but the grant should cover at least the section of road that leads to the fire hall, Culp said.
Acord will move his office from Twisp to the Horizon Flats station, but the Twisp, Mazama and Carlton fire halls will still be in place, staffed by volunteer firefighters, Acord said. About 15 to 20 volunteers and three daytime staff will be based out of the new Winthrop building.
The new station is paid for through an increased levy approved by district voters in May 2020 and $500,000 of a $1.8 million grant from the Bruno and Evelyne Betti Foundation.