NWFRS discusses shop, may try to sell
The North Whatcom Fire and Rescue Services (NWFRS) mechanical shop just isn�t making enough to cover costs, so things are going to change.
NWFRS recently took a $150,000 unsecured line of credit to run the mechanical shop in Lynden, and how that will be paid for is in discussion, as well as what to do with the shop now.
Commissioners of all three districts agreed to share liability for the credit and as of the end of last month, Crossen said about $120,000 was left to be paid.
Through an April letter of agreement commissioners of all three NWFRS partners, fire districts 3 and 13, agreed to share liability for a line of credit that would provide expansion capital for the NWFRS repair shop.
When NWFRS repair shop expanded last year the intention was, through contracts to maintain and repair fire equipment from across the state, to quickly pay off any amount drawn down as well as the $51,000 rent on the district 3 facility in Lynden it now occupies.
�Those were projections,� said Crossen. �The reality is the cost of business exceeded revenues.� The rent on the Lynden building, owned by fire district 3 and rented by NWFRS, was due in November 2002 and remains unpaid.
In a September 9 memo NWFRS attorneys Frank Chmelik and Scott Maresh reviewed who would be responsible if NWFRS were to be forced to default on the line of credit or the lease.
�Where NWFRS is obligated to pay the rent for the facility (as well as the other expenses), we understand that the NWFRS budget does not address this obligation because NWFRS, the districts and the board of directors assumed that the facility would �pay for itself� through revenues and that the districts would not have to contribute funds,� they wrote.
�Apparently the facility is in poor financial condition, and there is disagreement among the individual fire protection districts making up NWFRS as to who should bear the losses stemming from the facility�s operation�The Board of Directors must resolve the issue of which districts will pay how much...It is conceivable that the districts decide that they will not fund the rental payment, in which event district 3 could decide to pursue legal action against its tenant for breach of lease. If NWFRS�s obligations exceed its funding, and if the districts do not fund NWFRS, it is possible that NWFRS could be faced with voluntary or involuntary bankruptcy.�
They did not speculate on the financial impact this could have on the districts.
NWFRS staff are working on options to turn the financial tide. Fire commissioners agreed last week in a special meeting that the best option would be to attempt to sell the facilities and bring the shop back to a smaller scale.
Whether the shop would be moved back to Birch Bay or kept as leased space in the Lynden shop remains to be decided.
If the shop were to completely shut down, NWFRS would lose $130,000, officials said.
Crossen said the decision made about the shop really depends on who purchases the building or who leases it. �One option is potentially selling it and then us leasing back a piece of it � about 5,000 square feet,� he said. �That would actually be best for us.�
�We�re getting an appraisal done too, we�ve also got some other professionals in the field helping us out,� Crossen said. �An appraisal was done a couple of years ago, and it was appraised before improvements were done to it, so we�re hoping it will be more.�
Among the improvements he noted were a complete fire sprinkler system, overhead lube and oil reels, and exhaust system.
�There has been interest in the building already, and we haven�t even advertised it yet,� Crossen said, adding NWFRS hope it sells for more than what was paid.
Point Roberts fire commissioner Jessie Lofquist said the option of selling the shop and moving back to Birch Bay facilities was the best option. �This looks like the only viable option,� he said. �This represents the maintenance of the shop, but gets rid of the shop burden.�
Currently, NWFRS mechanics are paid $27.62 an hour - if the work was sent out, Crossen said that would cost NWFRS about $80 an hour.
The mechanical shop was started to save maintenance costs with the NWFRS. The NWFRS � a combination of districts 3, 5 and 13 combined forces in 1999 � to save overall costs.