EFR will build new garage for some of its fire trucks

November 14, 2012

By Caleb Heeringa

Sammamish representatives signed off on a plan to spend more than $268,000 on adding a new out-building behind Eastside Fire & Rescue’s headquarters Nov. 8, but say it should not be seen as a commitment to the city staying with EF&R past 2014.

“I wouldn’t read into it too much,” Mayor Tom Odell said in an interview after the vote.

The new 50-feet by 100-feet garage, plus a 48-feet by 20-feet covered parking area would serve as a roof over the head of fire trucks, aid units and other vehicles that now sit uncovered behind headquarters, exposed to Pacific Northwest rain, wind and snow.

The new building will also allow the agency to free up space in its shop facility that is currently used to house apparatus.

“This is not a Cadillac or Rolls Royce addition,” Issaquah representative Mark Mullet said. “This is bare bones … This is the cheapest building we could build.”

Sammamish’s approval of the new building is a bit of a change from last year, when its representatives fought similar upgrades to the headquarters building because of the uncertainty facing the agency when its current interlocal agreement expires in 2014.

City leaders, perturbed by the agency’s reliance on an assessed value-based funding system they say is unfair, have begun looking at other options for fire service.

The city has delayed action until July of next year as the agency’s partners – Sammamish, Issaquah, North Bend and King County Fire Districts 10 and 38 – hold weekly meetings vetting other options for funding and running the agency.

But Odell and Councilman Ramiro Valderrama, Sammamish’s other EFR representative, said they weren’t concerned about investing Sammamish taxpayers’ money into a property owned by District 10.

The plan for the building includes a 30-year depreciation schedule that allows a partner to be reimbursed for most of their portion of the building – $77,500 in Sammamish’s case – if they leave the agency.

“There’s a way out at a minimal cost to citizens if we end up leaving,” Valderrama said.

Valderrama also wanted reassurances from Chief Lee Soptich and other board members that this investment in the current headquarters meant the agency wouldn’t be looking at building a new headquarters building in the near future.

EFR officials have in the past complained that the current headquarters, constructed in 1981 as a fire station and not administrative office building, is cramped, with multiple employees sharing offices best suited for one.

Soptich said a new headquarters would be a multi-million dollar project that has been a non-starter in recent years. Board chairman and District 38 representative Ron Pedee said the agency likely wouldn’t be looking at a project of that magnitude as long as it continues under its current model, in which an interlocal agreement between each partner must be reaffirmed every seven years.

“If we ever ‘get married’ for real … it may be something we look at at that point,” Pedee said.

EFR approves budget

Eastside Fire & Rescue board members unanimously signed off on the agency’s 2013 revenue and expense budgets at their Nov. 8 meeting.

The $22.2 million budget calls for a 3.1 percent spending increase from 2012 due to increases in wages and benefits and modest rises in money for volunteer training and new sets of protective clothing for firefighters. The budget is nearly identical to that presented at an October meeting, with a small rise in the expected ending fund balance due to some facets of the 2012 budget costing less than expected.

The board is scheduled to approve its 2013 budget officially at its Dec. 13 meeting.

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