Sammamish balks at $500,000 EFR headquarters remodel

March 22, 2011

By Caleb Heeringa

Eastside Fire & Rescue is considering remodeling its Issaquah headquarters to add office and storage space.

But with Sammamish’s future involvement in the agency in question, that city’s representatives were skeptical about paying for a remodel that could cost the agency about $500,000.

The details of the proposed remodel are still being ironed out, but the project would add seven offices, a small conference room and a copy room to the building, which was built in 1981 as a response station for King County Fire District 10, Deputy Chief Jeff Griffin said in an interview.

The district only had about 10 full-time firefighters at the time, but the building has now been partially converted into an administrative office for an agency that employs hundreds and covers three cities and dozens of square miles.

Griffin said there is no women’s bathroom on the second floor of the building, no elevator for disabled access and many offices designed for one employee house two. The upstairs copy machine sits in the hallway.

“It’s not an ideal use of the space,” Griffin said. “In some offices, one person has to leave the room while the other uses the phone.”

The project would also include a separate storage building behind the main building. Griffin said many of the agency’s backup vehicles and other equipment sit outside, which makes them depreciate in value more quickly.

“It looks like a used car lot or junkyard back there right now with all the vehicles we have our back,” he said.

Sammamish was unsure about spending money on the building, which technically still belongs to District 10, with the future of its fire service in flux. That city’s officials have not been actively involved in discussions the other EFR partners have had on a creating regional fire authority, a new entity that could take over fire service in the area after EFR’s charter expires in 2014.

“I’m apprehensive about what’s happening to the structure of EFR in three or four years,” said Sammamish Mayor Don Gerend, one of Sammamish’s two representatives on the agency’s board. “How does a partner get reimbursed if EFR comes apart?”

The exact cost to each partner has yet to be worked out, though a draft funding model presented at the meeting had Sammamish paying an additional $14,000 or so a year for 10 years for the remodel. Sammamish currently pays about $5.66 million a year for fire service through EFR.

District 10 Commissioner Mike Mitchell said the agency’s finance and operations committee would look at funding arrangements that would allow a partner to get their money back. Though the headquarters is technically shared by all partners, Griffin said it’s not necessarily required that every partner contribute to the remodel.

Issaquah and North Bend representatives also said they were unsure whether they could afford to contribute extra money for a remodel during such tight fiscal times.

“What if a partner or partner comes back and says, ‘Gee whiz, we think this is a great idea, but there’s no money in the piggy bank,’” North Bend representative Dee Williamson said. “It’s not that the concept is bad. But like a lot of things, we can’t afford it.”

Caleb Heeringa: 392-6434. ext. 247, or cheeringa@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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