Architects roll out first look at new fire station design

Published on Thu, Apr 4, 2002 by Meg Olson

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Architects roll out first look at
new fire station design

By Meg Olson

“We’ve done a feasibility study and determined that the facility will meet the site,” said Peter Carletti, president of Carletti Architects. “This is a concept for it.” Carletti and associate Tim Goodman presented city council with their first look at how Blaine’s new fire station on Odell Road might look.

“Basically, it’s a house with a big garage,” Goodman said at the April 1 meeting. The new station would have four truck bays along the front of the building, facing Odell Road across from Geographics, and an ambulance bay on the south side. “A fire station isn’t just about fires anymore,” Goodman said. “It’s about medical emergencies, too.”

Behind the vehicle bays, a small shop and bunker gear storage, the fire station will have two sections – living quarters for firefighters on duty and administrative offices. Joining the two will be a large meeting and training room and public washrooms. There is also a small utility room sublet by the county public utility district as part of an interlocal agreement to bring fiber optics to the city.

“We’re not going to get everything we want,” Carletti said. “”I can’t think of a project without compromises.” Trucks will back into the bays by pulling forward into a hammerhead alongside the driveway. A pull through configuration, Carletti said, would have strained the budget and the site limitations. “It’s incredibly more expensive,” he said.

In the living area, there will be four rooms for firefighters to sleep in, enough for each one to have their own room initially yet big enough that firefighters could double up as the station added more staffing. A kitchen, dayroom, laundry and fitness rooms are also planned so firefighters have everything they need without leaving the station. “This is where the truck is, so they’re always here,” Goodman said. When they do leave on a call plans call for the system to have an automatic appliance shutoff system. “That’s what you hear about happening,” said city attorney Frank Chmelik. “The fire trucks go out and the station burns down because someone had beans on the stove.”

A review of the plans by local firefighters had led to some changes in the concept developed with the fire station committee. “These are the people who will actually live here,” Goodman said. “There are always 50 ways to do something. As long as you keep the same management the infrastructure was built on, you’ll have a successful structure for years.
The architects tried to give the exterior of the building a rustic feel, with a pitched roof and gables, and plan to focus on economical, low-maintenance materials. “You don’t try and create a monument,” Carletti said. “Try and make it as maintenance free as possible.”

Estimated size of the building would be just shy of 10,000 square feet, at a cost of $1.25 per square foot for the turnkey facility, including design, permitting and construction. A city voter-approved bond issue generated $1.6 million to build the building on land purchased by fire district 13, as part of the ongoing contract for the district to provide fire services to the city.

Blaine assistant public works director Steve Banham said the city and the fire district are pushing an aggressive schedule to get the new station done. “We’re on a fast track now to get construction going this summer and have the station ready for the new fire trucks,” Banham said. Fire district 13 has ordered new apparatus, some of which they plan to station in Blaine.

As design progresses, Banham said open houses to get public input on the station will be planned. “If the community is involved early they don’t think it’s a done deal,” he said. “There are lots of opportunities for the community to get involved – our antique hose reel, exterior paint, landscaping,” said Blaine fire captain Jim Rutherford. He suggested a program of selling personalized tiles for the entryway, similar to the Blaine Library tiles.

Presentations of the preliminary design are planned for several local organizations and for the April 22 city council meeting.

Early start to contract review
Earlier in the April 1 meeting the city and fire district 13 began the review of the contract under which fire district 13 provides fire service to the city. The contract expires in 2004, and the two parties will have to decide if annexation or a new contract is the best way to continue to insure community fire needs are met. “This is just to give you an overview,” city manager Gary Tomsic told city council members, district 13 board member Bill Salter and staff from both groups. “We need to work on this cooperatively and the sooner the better. Fire district 13 is a different entity than it was at the beginning of the contract. They’ve been on the cutting edge and doing some very innovative stuff organizing fire protection for rural areas.”

Mike Campbell, chief of the new North Whatcom Fire and Rescue Services which united fire districts 13, three and five for operational, administrative and training activities, explained how the new organization improved fire service. “The process of consolidation is how we can lower costs and meet our legislative requirements,” he said. “It costs the same to run 10 calls as it does to run 100 calls – it takes the same output of effort, equipment and staff.”

Chmelik said annexation and continuing to work under a service agreement both had advantages. “Annexation is quite simple,” he said. “The city gets out of the fire business and taxpayers pay directly to the fire protection district. You lose some control but you don’t have to deal with those issues.” Annexation would require approval of voters in both the city and district 13. After three years city voters could vote again to de-annex. Under annexation, the fire district would be redistricted and commissioners from Blaine would be elected to the board.

Agreements such as the one now in place are becoming a long-term alternative for many communities, Chmelik said. “Consolidation agreements are becoming more and more common as it becomes increasingly difficult for smaller districts to deal with growing requirements. Sometimes a fire district likes a service agreement better. They don’t have to start wondering how to plan after three years. A contract can last five, ten, 20 or more years.” ..

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