Orting Valley Fire proposes to build new headquarters station, seeks public input

Orting Valley Fire and Rescue plans to build a new headquarters station after negotiations to buy the building it leases from the city fell through.

The fire district has proposed building the station near Beckett Lane East and state Route 162, Fire Chief Zane Gibson said. A public hearing on the matter is set for July 15.

“We need more space,” Gibson said.

He said his staff has “shoehorned office space” into its current building, which doesn’t have room for an increase in administrative staff planned for the next couple years.

The building also lacks proper living spaces for firefighters, some of whom must sleep in chairs during shifts, he said.

A new headquarters would increase offices and dorms, add a classroom for more in-house programs and allow for a bigger kitchen, Gibson said.

Plans for the building are in early stages, and it could be about two years before it opens.

The goal is to expand the fire district’s facilities while remaining “budget neutral,” Gibson said.

Orting Valley Fire currently leases space in Orting’s public safety building, sharing facilities with police, the City Council and the court. Rent is $12,000 a month. The fire district’s 10-year lease is up December 2015.

For about $12,500 a month, Gibson said, the district can get a low-interest loan from the federal Department of Agriculture to pay for the new headquarters.

Financing is estimated to be from $2.5 million to $3 million.

The district would recycle the design Graham Fire and Rescue used to build two of its stations, saving time and money on construction, Gibson said.

“Fire stations last forever and the plan is to pay it off sooner” than the term of the loan, he said Monday.

The proposal for a new building follows failed negotiations with the city for the fire district to buy the public safety building for use as an expanded headquarters station.

The two sides couldn’t agree on a price for the facility, Gibson said.

City Administrator Mark Bethune said the city and the district each sought appraisals for the building and the results were significantly different.

“The city was open to selling the building if it could receive enough to pay off its bond and build a new police station,” Bethune said Monday in an email.

The city’s suggested price to make that feasible was higher than the fire district was willing to pay, Bethune noted.

Gibson said the bottom line was securing ownership of a building that fits the department’s needs.

“Right now we’re renters and we want to be homeowners,” he said.

The fire district serves about 14,000 people – including more than 6,700 Orting residents – as part of a 32-square-mile coverage area.