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Mount Vernon Fire Department looks to upgrade stations

October 14, 2018 GMT

MOUNT VERNON — The Mount Vernon Fire Department is asking the City Council to consider sending a bond proposal to voters in February that if passed would give the department the money to make changes at each of its three stations.

The bond would allow the department to address advances in fire service and the growing population of the city, said Chief Bryan Brice.

The city does not yet have a cost estimate for the project because the specifics may change depending on public input.

The need, however, has been determined, said Mount Vernon Mayor Jill Boudreau.

“With a growing city, we simply need more infrastructure to provide the level of service (people) expect,” she said.

The largest part of the project would involve building a new station to replace the aging Station 1, which is currently attached to City Hall in downtown.

Built in the 1960s, the building is not capable of meeting the department’s current needs, especially when it comes to space for staff and emergency vehicles, Brice said.

“There is no ability to put the right amount of personnel there or the right apparatus,” he said.

For example, he said if the department wanted to have an extra ambulance in the area during times of additional activity, such as the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, the current station is unable to accommodate the extra vehicle.

“The growth that we’re starting to see downtown, with more population and more dense development, requires a level of fire service that we are not capable of providing currently,” Boudreau said.

The building also does not meet current seismic requirements, said Brett Hanson with Mackenzie, the architecture and engineering company hired to help the department with its plans.

“In a seismic event, that facility will not be operational,” Hanson said.

The plan is to build a new two-story, 24,000-square-foot fire station between Cleveland Avenue and South Second Street bordering Snoqualmie Street, where the library’s parking lot currently sits, according to initial drawings.

In July, the Mount Vernon City Council and the Skagit County commissioners approved building a joint library and community center on Kincaid Street, with construction beginning next year.

After construction of the new library, the plan is to use the old library building to consolidate other city departments into a civic area downtown, Brice said.

Currently, he said there are no plans for how to use what would be the old Station 1 building.

“It will be utilized,” Brice said. “We want to make the right choice based on the community growth downtown and see, how do we maximize that space?”

Snoqualmie Street between Cleveland and Second could potentially be closed off and instead used as a public walkway between the fire department and other civic buildings, Hanson said.

The new building would also house the city’s emergency operations center and a community aid room, according to the department.

If approved, the changes made to Station 2, located off LaVenture Road near Skagit Valley College, and Station 3, located off East Division Street, will be smaller and consist mostly of improving the existing spaces to make the stations more efficient and safer for firefighters.

Both were built more than 20 years ago and don’t provide optimal health safety areas, such as a decontamination zone between the apparatus bay and living quarters, Hanson said.

“How do we protect first responders that are exposed to contaminants and contagions in the field?” Hanson said. “In the field, you’re protected by gear, but when you get back to the building the building needs to be equally supportive.”

At Station 3, the plan would include adding a new bay for an ambulance.

The area of the city served by Station 3 is one of the city’s expected growth areas, especially for seniors, Brice said.

“These changes are setting us up for the continued evolution of our EMS delivery,” Brice said. “It’s not just about what’s needed now, but what are we are going to need for the future. It’s making sure that not just for today but 20, 30 years down the road, we’re able to have space.”

The department’s administrative staff would move from Station 2 to Station 1.

At each of the stations, a secure parking lot for employees would be added, and training and sleeping areas would be adjusted to allow for more privacy.

To gather community input, the department will host an open house from 2 to 5 p.m. today at Station 1. The event corresponds with Fire Prevention Week.

The council has until mid-December to decide if it will send the bond proposal to voters.