The Okanogan County Commissioners have not yet decided whether to allocate federal funds to help with higher-than-anticipated construction costs for a new fire station that is being built in Winthrop by Okanogan County Fire District 6.
The fire district has requested $258,000 in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds for the fire station construction project, which is nearing completion. The project budget has been impacted by increased costs of construction materials and services, primarily due to disruptions in transportation and supply caused by the COVID pandemic.
Commissioner Andy Hover said the District 6 request is included in a list of requests for ARPA funding being considered by the County Commission. “We put it in our request sheet in order to see how much money we have to allocate. We haven’t made any formal decision on it,” Hover said last Thursday (Aug. 4).
Grand opening for new station
Okanogan County Fire District 6 invites the public to a dedication and grand opening ceremony for the district’s new fire station and regional training center in Winthrop on Saturday, Aug. 27, starting at 11 a.m. The station is at 33 Horizon Flat Road.
Tours of the new station will be available and there will be a lunch after the ceremony. RSVP at email@example.com so organizers will know how many attendees to expect.
In recent meetings, commissioners questioned whether ARPA funds could be provided to taxing entities like the fire district. The county auditor has determined that “we’re allowed … to transfer funds to a junior taxing district,” Hover said last week.
He said he expects commissioners to make a decision on the fire district request “pretty soon” because the county is currently developing agreements for ARPA funding recipients.
The county allocated $75,000 in ARPA funds earlier this year to help install a high-speed pump for a fire hydrant located on county property in Mazama to improve firefighting capability in the upper Methow Valley. That project also received funding through community donations.
Hover said the commissioners did not have questions about allocating funding for the hydrant project because it “is on our property.” The new fire station is located on property owned by the fire district on Horizon Flat Road in the town of Winthrop.
Fire District 6 Chief Cody Acord said the construction project has continued to move forward despite the increased construction costs. The district is planning an opening ceremony for the public on Aug. 27. The district has used some of its reserve funds for the project, and reduced costs by eliminating or postponing some planned landscaping. In addition, after one of the district’s paid captains left his position, money for that position has been allocated for the construction project.
The district has advocated for more than a decade for a new station to replace a much smaller building it has leased from the town of Winthrop. The leased facility is so cramped that it puts firefighters at risk as they get ready to respond to fire calls in tight spaces next to moving trucks.
The district won voter approval for a tax levy and received a grant from the Bruno and Evelyne Betti Foundation to fund the $5 million project.
The American Rescue Plan Act, signed into law in March 2021, provides $350 billion in funding for state and local governments, including $65 billion for counties, to mitigate ongoing economic damage resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.