Puyallup has approved a preliminary agreement with Central Pierce Fire & Rescue dealing with a city-owned parking lot as the fire district looks to replace the downtown station and improve its facilities district-wide.
Central Pierce has a nearly $40 million bond measure on the ballot in November. If approved, it would allow for sweeping improvements to facilities and three station replacements, including a new Puyallup location for staff members who currently share an aging building with police.
The Puyallup City Council on June 18 unanimously adopted an agreement that provides a placeholder for a potential new fire station at the parking lot on West Pioneer Avenue, across the street from the existing fire and police station. The agreement expires Nov. 18.
The lot is now used for parking, mainly for a senior center, the library and the police station. The property formerly housed city services before the new City Hall was built in 2008.
If the 20-year bond measure passes, taxpayers within district boundaries would pay 16 cents per $1,000 in assessed property value, meaning a house valued at $200,000 would result in a fee of $32 per year.
Central Pierce Fire Chief Keith Wright said the hope is to improve the long-term health of the district’s stations.
The planned replacements include Station 73 in downtown Puyallup, the one to which the agreement refers. Wright said the station is too small for current demands. Station 61 in Parkland has cracks in its foundation and a leaky roof. Midland’s Station 63 is impractical, he said, having been built in several phases away from a main arterial before the area was annexed into the district.
Some or all of the stations could be built within the first three years of passage of the bond issue, Wright said.
Other district-wide improvements would include staff dorm upgrades, roof replacements and other smaller structural projects.
Puyallup City Attorney Kevin Yamamoto said the joint agreement gives Central Pierce one parcel option as the district awaits election results. However, it avoids locking the city into a commitment to sell the property.
“It balances the interests,” Yamamoto said.
The property is not for sale. The agreement merely gives the fire district “right of first refusal,” meaning it would have the opportunity to match any potential offers Puyallup receives for the land.
Yamamoto said the agreement allows flexibility and security for both parties.
The agreement “provides assurance that during the months before the election if somebody comes in and wants to buy, it gives Central Pierce first chance to buy (the lot),” he said.
Wright said Central Pierce plans to look more closely at the parcel if the bond passes, but it is too early to say with certainty that the city’s lot would be the available for a new station.
“It’s just an option right now,” he said. “There’s many factors we will figure into where that station will go.”
The city’s lot would be an ideal spot for a new facility because of its proximity to the existing station, Wright said, having little effect on the four-minute average response time.
“My goal is always to respond to our citizens with minimal impact,” he said.
Central Pierce has an annual operating budget of about $42 million. In the last three years, Wright said, that has diminished by about $5 million due to a weak economy and declining property values.
Wright said the debt-free district has worked hard to make cuts to avoid impacts on services.
There is no room in the general fund to make necessary repairs to facilities, he said, and approval of the tax measure would improve structures for decades to come.
“I’m thinking of the long-term health of my fire department and its facilities,” Wright said.
Puyallup joined Central Pierce in 2008, a district that covers about 87 square miles and serves about 202,000 residents from Elk Plain south of Spanaway to River Road north of Puyallup. The city’s downtown station has responded to more than 1,000 calls already this year. It is one of the busiest stations in Central Pierce, which responded to nearly 27,000 calls last year.
Puyallup officials want to maintain response times from the downtown station, and keeping the department in the city’s core will help do that.
“As long as the city wants to continue to have quality level of fire service for its citizens it should work with (Central Pierce),” Yamamoto said.Kari Plog: 253-597-8682 email@example.com @KariPlog