Central Pierce Fire and Rescue, a fire district that serves more than 200,000 people across 87 square miles, will have a $39.8 million facilities bond on the general election ballot next month, and officials say they’re at a crossroads.
“We are operating in 2013 with $5.4 million less than what we had in 2010 but with the same amount of people and an increase call volume,” said Ed Hrivnak, assistant chief of prevention and education. “We have repair work that has to be done. We’re at a breaking point where something has to change. We need to bring in more revenue or reduce services in order to do repairs.”
If voters approve it, the facilities bond would help pay for the replacement of three major facilities: Station 61 in Parkland, Station 63 in Midland and Station 73 in downtown Puyallup.
For Puyallup, which merged with Central Pierce in 2008, public safety personnel said it’s paramount that Station 73 find a new home to allow the Puyallup Police Department to grow.
Central Pierce and Puyallup police share space in the downtown public safety building.
“On the police side of the house, we are maxed out with space and have people working in what used to be closets,” said Capt. Scott Engle, spokesman for the Puyallup Police Department.
In addition, concerns that Central Pierce has with Station 73 include the tight quarters and building layout, dated mechanical and electrical systems and the station’s lack of compliance with building codes, including seismic reinforcements.
“If we have a moderate earthquake, we want our stations to survive,” Hrivnak said. “They are going to come down with even a moderate earthquake.”
Parkland’s Station 61 and Midland’s Station 63 also do not comply with seismic reinforcement codes.
Hrivnak said another concern with Station 73 is the common bunk room shared by both men and women. The quarters are only divided by a sheet, Hrivnak said.
“We should have separate facilities for men and women,” he said.
Hrivnak said fire district officials hope a new Station 73 would be built at a different location within downtown Puyallup. The move would free up the city to remodel the existing public safety building into a law and justice campus. Engle said it would likely consist of police, courts and jail.
“We have several locations that we have looked at for the new station,” Hrivnak said. “If we get a passing vote, the No. 1 priority is to secure the land to build on.”
Hrivnak said the interest on the bond would be paid over 20 years. The impact for taxpayers would be about $3 per month, or $36 per year, for a $210,000 home.
Hrivnak said the bond would be issued in two phases so the district would pay on less interest over time. If it’s approved, the district would issue $20 million in December and the remaining $19.8 million in 2016. Projects would be complete by 2019.
Hrivnak said an expanded Station 73 would allow the district to accommodate projected growth within the downtown Puyallup core.
“We want room to add equipment as the City of Puyallup grows,” he said. “We want a fire station where we could add a medic unit. We have no capability to add equipment now.”
Fire Chief Keith Wright said the district currently doesn’t have any bonds and is debt-free.
“We have been good stewards of our tax dollars,” Wright said. “This is about the long-term health of Central Pierce’s facilities. Property values are low. Construction costs are low. It’s a good time to build. Our intent is to have these buildings be around for 40-plus years. We’re going to build a structure that is going to be around for decades.”