The South Bay Fire Department has applied for county permits to build a 5,200-square-foot station, a plan that’s dependent upon voters approving a bond in November.
The fire chief says the station, proposed on 3 acres of undeveloped land near Hendershot Street Northeast and 78th Avenue Northeast, would help his mostly volunteer staff provide better service to the 7,500 residents within its 23-square-mile district. However, neighbors have expressed concerns about noise and environmental impacts.
The station eventually could house firefighters around the clock and allow the department to close two of its older stations and sell the property, chief Brian VanCamp said.
“It’s centralized,” VanCamp said. “By putting people at that one station, we can actually improve response times.”
He added that the new station, coupled with sufficient staffing, could help reduce current 10- to 12-minute response times. The project is the review stage; it still must go to a hearing examiner and have a public hearing. But some neighbors already are speaking out.
“It just infuriates me that we have to have the fire station across the street when they already have something,” said Susan Rogers, who has lived across the street from the proposed location with her husband, Ron, for 12 years. “I think life will be different for us.”
The Rogerses said they aren’t looking forward to large trucks coming and going at all hours with sirens blasting.
They and other neighbors also say they’re worried runoff from the station could contaminate groundwater, affecting drinking water and surrounding sensitive lands.
The department will have to address stormwater to receive its special-use permit for the site, said Tony Kantas, associate planner for Thurston County.
He said a stormwater site plan will need to be established to make sure the water is treated on site before going into the ground; once treated, the water has to be retained on site.
VanCamp said the department is sensitive to neighbors’ concerns and won’t hold too much training or other activities at the station that would produce high levels of noise.
“Our whole intention is to be a good neighbor instead of being a distraction,” he said.
The department responds to about 700 calls a year. If all responses came from the new station, there would be about two a day.Shrubbery and trees also are in the design to screen noise.
During a public-comment period for the permit application, the county received several written comments from residents who live near the proposed site. One couple wrote they’d like to “protect the area’s rural character,” while another stated, “No one would choose rural living near such a fire station.”
The department has three stations, two of which are within several miles from the proposed site. Neither fits the department’s long-term plans, VanCamp said.
The Johnson Point Road and Puget Beach Road stations are on the chopping block if the station moves forward. Initial plans have the new station staffed with two firefighter/EMTs on nights and weekends; the Johnson Point station is irregularly staffed to gear up for the new station.
VanCamp estimates the project will cost about $2.5 million, with about half coming from 2008 levy money and the other half contingent on voters approving a $1.2 million general obligation bond this November.
VanCamp said that if the bond passes, the department won’t collect until 2014, after the current bond, which funded the construction of district headquarters off Shincke Road, is paid off.
He would like to start construction in spring 2012 and wrap up by fall.
VanCamp said the suggestion to close the two stations and construct a new one came from a citizen advisory task force in 2010.
Nate Hulings: firstname.lastname@example.org/outsideoly