Northwest NEWS

August 31, 1998

Front Page

Fire board votes to purchase Knoll site

   by Andrew Walgamott
   Staff reporter

   WOODINVILLE--The words "if" and "may" can be dropped from conversations about a downtown Woodinville fire station, but the biggest question now is when will the district be able to move in.
   Last week, the Woodinville Fire and Life Safety District Board of Commissioners voted in a roundabout way to purchase the Knoll Lumber building and land for $2.5 million from the Knoll family.
   A goal for several years, a station in the city's core will bring fire fighters closer to a larger segment of the population, as well as lower response times to the area.
   The district will put Station 31 up for sale and prepare to move their headquarters and gear 1.4 miles, by one route of travel, downtown.
   But don't hold your breath. Commissioner Tim Osgood said it may take a couple years before the district is settled in.
   "I think it'll be 24 months before our presence is felt in downtown Woodinville," he said, noting the permit process and construction time.
   The next step for the district is to decide whether to tear down the Knoll building or remodel.
   The Cochran Associates, who looked the facility over, found that the building "would need to undergo an extensive remodel in order to function as a fire station." They noted signs of "structural distress" in the warehouse slab as well as wall board cracking.
   While retrofit is possible, Cochran estimated it would cost $385,000 more to build new, which the firm pegged at $2,188,585.
   Osgood and boardmembers David Callon and Clint Olson expressed more interest in rebuilding.
   Noting the dollar difference and calling it a "wiser investment to start over," Osgood said rather than using the existing footprint, positioning a building where the district wanted it would lead to a more efficient use of space.
   But that was about as much as Callon and Osgood boardmembers agreed on.
   While Callon said he supports a downtown station, calling it an "admirable" goal, he was leery of the decision.
   "To me, it's a lot of money to move the station a mile and a half," he said.
   Callon estimated costs would reach $5 million, half that for just the purchase, and another $2.2 million to build new. Tacked on also would be architect's fees, which he estimated at 10 percent, permit fees between $20,000 and $40,000, as well as covering emergencies that might arise during construction.
   "This might be a five million dollar faux pas," Callon said.
   The district hopes to sell Station 31, and according to Osgood, has already received offers on the property. A real estate service estimated it to be worth $1.8 million, though there was talk of offers of up to $2.5 million for it and an offer of $600,000 for the district's acreage near Boston Market during the meeting.
   Chief Steve Smith told the commissioners the district had around $1.7 million left over from a bond to construct a new station as well.
   Callon was skeptical of the offers and spending the bond money.
   "Just because we have money is irrelevant. We need to spend it wisely. I think the taxpayers deserve it," he said.
   But it was Smith's comments on the bond money that probably sealed the vote.
   Commissioner Clint Olson had wavered on the purchase before learning of the funds.
   The fire board's decision came early last week at a special meeting of the commissioners.
   What actually occurred is that a motion to not accept the consultant's feasibility study was defeated, thereby moving the district forward with purchase.
   Commissioners Frank Peep, Osgood and Olson voted in favor of purchase, while Callon voted against and Ed Anderson abstained.
   The property became available recently. "This came up a month, a month and a half ago," Osgood said.
   While Callon questioned what he perceived as a rush to buy and why the district had to locate in what he termed "prime retail" zoned land, he said he would "attempt to work with the board to make [the station] happen."
   The district built Station 31 on a hill north of the city in 1987 when District 42 served the downtown area. In 1992, the area annexed to the Woodinville fire district.