News: Kittitas Valley Fire and Rescue dampens construction plans

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BY EVAN PAPAS, Assistant News Editor

Kittitas Valley Fire and Rescue has reduced the bond amount they are asking for from the community.

The bond was originally at $12.6 million, KVFR has reduced the amount they are requesting to $8 million.

When the request was taken to the Citizen Advisory Group, it was met with some apprehension. Fire Chief John Sinclair said the Citizen Advisory Group thought reducing the amount of money and construction would be a better idea.

“Their thought was, considering the community is still coming back from the recession, we should scale back,” Sinclair said.

The original construction plans were to build a new headquarters as well as make renovations to the old headquarters.

“Initially, we had envisioned a new headquarters at 400 East Mountain, and we also wanted to be able to do upgrades to the station at 2020 Vantage Highway,” Sinclair said.

Now the construction will only be done to the highest priority project – the all new headquarters.

Kittitas Valley Fire and Rescue is a special Fire District and its own legal entity. In 2007, they signed a 10 year lease with the City of Ellensburg. Now that the end is in sight for the lease, the plans for a new facility have begun.

The confirmation for the plans are waiting on the April election, where the Fire Department’s bond must win at least 60 percent of the votes. If the votes go through, then the KVFR will be able to get started on the project as early as next fall.

“If we get an affirmative vote from the community, we can hopefully start some of the groundwork next fall, but construction wouldn’t start until spring 2015,” Sinclair said.

Pat Clerf, chair for the board of commissioners for KVFR, said the Mackner Scales property was sold to the fire department by the family. Clerf is happy with the location because of the improved access it will give the Fire Department to the community.

“It allows easy access for the trucks to get to the freeway, downtown Ellensburg, and also the rural community,” Clerf said. “It’s just a few blocks away from exit 109.”

The current building is shared with the Ellensburg Police Department, who also are in need of a larger space. The new building will be able to provide much needed storage space and expanded resources for KVFR, as well as freeing up a large part of the original building for the Police Department to expand their space.

“The time has come, that we need to go out on our own and they need the building,” Clerf said. “Purchasing this property was a huge step down that road.”

Clerf said there is a committee currently working on designs KVFR wants for the building.

“There will be more office space, larger living quarters, a classroom type facility, easy access to the apparatus bays,” Clerf said.

Brad Wallace, union president of the Ellensburg branch of the International Association of Fire Fighters, has started Citizens for the Fire Station Bond, a group looking to raise money in order to advertise and promote the bond to voters.

The current plan for the group is to get more members from the community involved and to decide how they will campaign through flyers, newspaper ads and more. According to Wallace, the new facilities will be very beneficial to KVFR.

“It will overall improve response times, it will allow for better efficiency in training, and allow us for more room,” Wallace said. “We are going to have better storage for our gear and, of course, much better training facilities.”

In addition to running a full service fire department, Kittitas Valley Fire and Rescue operates a paramedic service as well. Their fire suppression footprint covers 270 square miles and their emergency medical services cover 1200 square miles.

The new location will be better located within KVFR’s call volume for their emergency medical services. The additional space will be welcome as KVFR will be getting a new ambulance within the next month as well.

Clerf said the new headquarters will help KVFR carry out their service to the community.

“We are trying to build a station that will last and serve the community for at least 50 years,” Clerf said.

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