By Jane Meyer Brahm and Debbie Bertlin
Mercer Island City Council
When the South-end station fire station was built in 1962, the population of the Island was less than 13,000 and all of Mercer Island’s firefighters were part-time volunteers.
Times have changed in 50 years. The South-end fire station hasn’t.
The cinder block building is not up to modern earthquake codes or firefighting standards. Experts who’ve analyzed the building conclude it cannot be remodeled at a reasonable cost.
It’s time to build a new station. Interest rates are at historic lows, and the bonds would be paid off in just nine years, saving thousands of dollars for taxpayers.
Miller-Hull, the firm that designed the community center, has done a preliminary design for an efficient structure that will serve the needs of the Mercer Island community for many years to come. The new station is in the mid-range of the size and cost to comparable fire stations built in the last five years in the Puget Sound region.
A new South-end station will benefit all Island residents. Fire and aid call responses are integrated throughout the entire Island. If trucks from the North-end station are unavailable because of our mutual aid agreements with other communities, it’s essential that equipment from the South-end station be available to respond to a North-end call.
Emergency aid calls have been growing steadily — when minutes can make the difference between life and death. We can’t risk a situation like the one that occurred in 2007, when the fire trucks got stuck in the South-end station temporarily after a small earthquake.
It’s been many years since residents have been asked to pass a bond or levy to pay for a city capital construction project. Because of a booming economy and prudent financial management, the city was able to build the Community and Event Center and the main fire station without any tax increase or bond measure.
But the city isn’t able to do that now, and must come to the voters for support. The City Council is unanimous in recognizing the need to build a new South-end fire station now.
A small portion — $415,000 — of the $5.2 million proposition is for the replacement of a 17-year-old fire rescue truck. This truck carries specialized equipment and is designed to negotiate the Island’s steep driveways that can’t be used by the larger fire trucks. The city does have a “sinking fund” for replacement fire vehicles to which funds have been allocated regularly. But, like so many of our personal savings accounts, it hasn’t grown in recent years as quickly as we would have liked, and the balance is inadequate to purchase a new rescue vehicle. The old truck is scheduled for replacement in 2013. The City Council voted to include its replacement as an important part of this public safety measure.
Fire Chief Chris Tubbs and the firefighters union see this new fire station and fire rescue truck replacement as being essential to ensuring their ability to help keep the Island safe.
This levy is about a fire house and a fire truck. It is a one-time capital expenditure that’s responsible and necessary. Vote yes for Proposition No. 1.