Plan progresses to relocate rural fire station near Issaquah

May 22, 2012

By Warren Kagarise

Construction should start on a May Valley fire station next summer, as local fire officials relocate firefighters and equipment deeper into Fire District 10 from a station close to the Renton city limits.

In late April, officials from Fire District 10 — May Valley, Mirrormont and other communities near Issaquah — completed the process to issue $5.5 million in construction bonds to build a May Valley fire station and complete other projects throughout the district.

Fire District 10 is the Eastside Fire & Rescue partner serving residents in Klahanie, May Valley, Mirrormont, Preston and Tiger Mountain in the Issaquah area, plus Carnation in rural King County.

The district encompasses about 130 square miles and about 28,000 people.

Plans call for EFR crews from Fire Station 78, at 16135 S.E. 113th Place near Renton, to relocate to a modern facility at a more central location at Southeast May Valley Road and 207th Avenue Southeast after construction is complete.

Wes Collins, EFR deputy chief of planning, said he expects Fire District 10 commissioners to decide on a bid for the project next spring. The bid total could affect smaller projects planned for other fire stations.

“If it comes in low, we do more projects. If it comes in high, we do less projects,” he said May 10.

Officials said a fire station built in May Valley could improve response times for rural residents and alleviate the workload for Fire Station 71 along East Sunset Way in downtown Issaquah — a station responsible for serving numerous neighborhoods inside city limits.

The rebuilt Station 78 could incorporate some “green” features, but not as many as ultra-“green” EFR Station 72, which opened last year next to the Issaquah Transit Center along state Route 900.

The architect for the Station 78 project is Seattle-based TCA Architecture Planning, the same architect behind Station 72. The project requires King County permitting approval before construction can start.

The sluggish economy could prove favorable as district officials seek bids for construction.

“What most people are telling us is that they’re seeing less bidders and a little uptick in costs of the bidding, but not much,” Collins said.

Elsewhere, the to-do list includes upgrades to the cramped volunteer Fire Station 76 on Tiger Mountain, plus improvements to volunteer Fire Station 74 in Preston.

“For some of these other facilities that they have, a Band-Aid may be just fine for what they’re getting out of those facilities,” Collins said. “But we have some projects sitting out there that could be fairly expensive.”

In late April, the credit-rating agency Standard & Poor’s assigned the fire district bonds a top-tier AA credit rating — a high mark for a fire district.

“This is the perfect time to upgrade our infrastructure at what will probably be the lowest interest rates we will see in our lifetimes,” district Commissioner Michael Fisette said.

Officials credited a decade of superior state audits, conservative spending practices, excellent accounting practices and voter support as factors in the AA rating.

“This is an excellent credit rating and indicator of the strong financial health and stability of the district,” commission Chairman Rick Gaines said. “Because of our most favorable credit rating and historically low interest rates, the bonds were issued at a net cost to District 10 taxpayers of 2.27 percent.”

The district could list the existing Station 78 for sale once construction is completed. Officials had the facility appraised at $250,000 last year.

In February, 64 percent of voters in the sprawling district approved a bond measure to generate the $5.5 million for construction projects.

Homeowners should pay about 9 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value — or about $3 per month for a home assessed at $400,000 — to fund the bond. The district last asked voters to approve a bond in the mid-1990s.

“Due to these most favorable interest rates, King County Fire Protection District 10’s Board of Commissioners hope to have this bond paid off in less than 15 years, rather than the longer period as originally thought,” Fisette said.

District officials could not determine the exact payoff period until completing the process to issue the bonds.

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or wkagarise@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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