July 27, 1998
Fire district looking downtown, again
by Andrew Walgamott
WOODINVILLE--The warble of fire engine sirens and aid cars may roll out of a downtown Woodinville fire station in the near future.
Woodinville Fire and Life Safety District officials are now in the process of making an offer on a piece of property in the downtown area, but remain tightlipped.
"I can't really say much about that," said Commissioner Tim Osgood. "We're looking at all of our options. We're trying to get something done soon," he said, adding that the district had "several" sites in mind. Last Tuesday night, the Board of Commissioners had a closed-door Executive Session on property acquisition.
Fire Chief Steve Smith said a station in the downtown core would allow the district to reach its goal of responding to 80 percent of fire and aid calls within five minutes. He said the district can't always do that from Station 31 which is near the King-Snohomish County line off of 144th Ave. N.E.
Downtown, the Knoll Lumber and Tilton Truss properties along Woodinville-Snohomish Road are currently for sale.
Smith said a decision to purchase property or look elsewhere was expected by July 29, and offered a potential timeline to siting in town.
"If the current offer flies, and we get architects involved, boy, I'm going to stretch a bit and say we could have a manned station within six months, but that depends on whether we remodel [a building] or start from scratch," Smith said.
Wally Holstad, president of local #2950 of the International Association of Firefighters, said the union "strongly endorses a downtown station," adding that concessions had been made in a recent agreement between the union and management to "facilitate that."
Last week, district officials also heard from Kidder Matthews & Segner real estate representatives who estimated Station 31 had a fair market value of $1.8 million. While the market is hot for warehouse and office space, they said it could take longer to sell the station because of its unique layout.
Smith said the district has about $1.6 million budgeted for building a new station, but that was for constructing one on land it owns just south of the Woodinville city limits in the Sammamish Valley. The district can't build there until zoning is changed.
Another option for the district is to work with Woodinville if the city were to buy the Northshore School District's Sorenson Complex.
But Smith sounded anxious to act rather than wait for zoning changes or resolution on the Sorenson deal.
"The board and we feel we have to be proactive and make a move," he said.
Bob Miller, a former Fire District 36 commissioner and currently a Woodinville councilman, said a survey several years ago found locating downtown would be appropriate based on district geography, population and assessed value.
Smith said if the sale goes through, plans for basing an aid car behind Woodinville City Hall would have to be re-evaluated.
Station 31 was built in 1987 when Fire District 42 covered downtown Woodinville.
Smith said a new station could also reach 80 percent of the Grace area in south Snohomish County within national response standards.