$5 million for new South end firehouse
By MARY L. GRADY
Mercer Island Reporter Editor
July 26, 2012 · 9:30 AM
The savings from the giant, multi-year sewer lake line project, just keep on giving. The nearly $400,000 savings from the project means the City Council can reduce the amount they will ask voters for to replace the aging South end firestation.
The 50-year-old South end fire station is in need of a complete makeover. It is too small, seismically insufficient, and does not provide adequate space for staff or equipment. The fire department also needs to replace its rescue truck and purchase state-of-the-art breathing apparatus for the firefighters.
In the past, large ticket items such as fire trucks had been financed by periodic infusion to a sinking fund.
Perhaps wary of the reaction that Island voters had to the $196 million school bond vote in April, the City Council hopes to do right by residents and voters by asking the right amount at the right time.
At issue is whether or not the total needed to upgrade firefighting capability on the South end of the Island should be split into two votes, one to fund the construction of a new firehouse on S.E. 68th Street, and the other for the equipment. But it appears that only the new truck will be included with the construction package.
The Council is close to finalizing a nine-year, $5.2 million levy to rebuild the South end firestation, on its existing land; and purchase a new rescue truck to replace the aging, existing rescue truck for $400,000.
As it stands now, new breathing apparatus will be purchased through other city funds when it is needed, said City Manager Rich Conrad.
A rescue truck is for specialized rescues such as a water or trench rescue (when someone is trapped under a structure, underground or in a construction zone) or to extract people from cars or even refloat a sunken boat or car. The new truck would be based at the North end firestation, Conrad said.
Councilmember Mike Cero said he favored raising money through the levy only for the new station and having the city find other ways to pay for the truck or breathing equipment.
In October of last year, the City Council had voted to use $365,000 of savings from the now-completed sewer lake line project toward the new firehouse.
Approval of the levy requires what is termed a temporary levy lift, which will increase the amount that the city can levy on Island property — if approved. The ‘lift’ is required as assessed home values on the Island have fallen, requiring city financial planners to ensure that if assessed values fall throughout the nine-year collection period, there will be enough to carry the levy debt service. The lift amount will expire at the end of the levy period.
In November, voters will have the final say on whether or not to approve the levy lift and the amount requested. A simple majority of ‘yes’ votes will pass the levy.
A second reading of the ordinance with a vote for adoption is set for Aug. 6.
The Station 92 firehouse was built in 1962 after the South end shopping center was established. It was intended to serve the South end homes and businesses with volunteer firefighters. It will be replaced with an 8,200-square-foot building.
Station 92 firefighters respond to about 900 fire, EMS and rescue calls each year.
Contact Mercer Island Reporter Editor Mary L. Grady at email@example.com or (206) 232-1215 ext. 1050.