Mount Vernon City Council approves nearly $30 million bond proposal for fire stations

December 22, 2018

MOUNT VERNON — The Mount Vernon City Council on Wednesday voted unanimously to send a nearly $30 million bond issuance request to voters in an April special election.

If approved, the city would use the money to make upgrades throughout the fire department, mostly with the construction of a new downtown fire station.

Of the $29.8 million proposal, about $22.5 million would be used to build a new downtown fire station. The current station is attached to City Hall.

If approved, taxpayers would pay 68 cents per $1,000 in assessed property value, which would be about $15.84 a month for a $279,450 house, according to the city.

The plan would be to build a two-story, 24,000-square-foot fire station between Cleveland Avenue and South Second Street bordering Snoqualmie Street, where the library’s parking lot is located.

The current downtown fire station was built in the 1960s when the department was a volunteer department, Chief Bryan Brice said.

The building has outlived its usefulness, he said.

“Our dynamics have shifted,” he said. “And the needs inside our stations have shifted.”

Ideally, Brice said he would like to operate the department’s four-person ladder truck out of that station, but the engine bays are not large enough to accommodate the vehicle, nor is there enough sleeping space for a four-person crew.

As the plan stands now, the department’s administration, which is housed at the LaVenture Road station near Skagit Valley College, would move to the new building. The move would free up space at the LaVenture station for additional personnel and equipment.

If the bond is approved, all three stations would see safety upgrades, including the addition of “clean zones” that are designed to reduce firefighters’ exposure to contaminants and contagions picked up in the field.

As it is now, firefighters can’t avoid exposing their living spaces to such things, including exhaust from the engines and whatever may be on their boots, Brice said.

“The place where we get on the floor to do our pushups or our situps is the same place we put our dirty boots,” Brice said.

Councilman Mark Hulst said he feels the city owes it to the first responders to make upgrades — such as adding the clean zones — for the safety of personnel.

“I think it’s our responsibility to protect the health of our first responders,” Hulst said.

Additionally, Brice said none of the stations are seismically sound. In the event of an earthquake, firefighters and their vehicles would likely be trapped and unable to assist residents.

“They won’t be able to be utilized at the time that they’re most needed,” he said.

Voters last approved a bond to address issues with the fire department in 1994, Brice said, allowing the department to build the LaVenture Road station and Station 3 off Division Street.

The need for upgrades to Station 3 became apparent shortly after, Brice said, and have been a part of the city’s improvement plan since about 2000.

In 2002, the need to replace the downtown station was added to the city’s improvement plan, he said. In 2016, the needs at the LaVenture Road station were added.

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