Over the past decade or so, East Pierce Fire and Rescue, through a series of annexations and mergers has grown to one of the larger regional fire districts in the area.
But even as their territory and staff has continued to grow, the department’s headquarters station, located at the Bonney Lake Public Safety Building, has remained exactly the same size.
And it’s led to something of a space crunch.
“We’re currently using every bit of space we have in this building,” said Assistant Chief John McDonald, adding that hallways and closets are even being used. “We need additional space.
“The building wasn’t designed to handle the number of folks who are in it today,” he said.
A Capital Facilities Evaluation conducted in 2011 to review the all of the department’s stations following the merger with the Edgewood Fire Department found that despite something of a patchwork formation, the coverage throughout the district is good, primarily due to the near-perfect spacing of the department’s facilities.
“What we found was in spite of what we had assumed, the stations are really well-located,” said McDonald. “That’s a huge benefit.”
The department then undertook a study looking at the county’s 20-year planning data and once again was surprised with the results.
“Again, we found the stations are in the right place,” he said.
And while that’s good overall, it meant that if the department wanted to move its headquarters station, it had to keep it within a six block radius or risk affecting the response times and coverage throughout the district due to what McDonald called a “domino effect.”
But with the department’s lease on the Public Safety Building set to expire at the end of next year, East Pierce began a search for a suitable property.
The department found a new spot right down the block at the corner of Main Street and Veterans Memorial Drive East.
Known as the Greenwood Property, it is the only vacant piece of land in the intersection, located in the northwest corner, across from Veterans Memorial Drive, Thian Thai and across Main Street from the former Priced Right Print and Sign building.
According to an email sent out to the department by McDonald, the land was selected for multiple reasons: the access to arterials in all directions, it was for sale by a single owner, is finished with all required frontage improvements (curb, gutter, etc.) and fits in with the city’s downtown plan that envisions a civic campus in the downtown core.
“We want to be close to where everyone is,” McDonald said.
In 2012, East Pierce purchased the three-plus acre parcel for $2.25 million, funded through the issuance of limited tax general obligation bonds, which do not need voter approval.
McDonald said when the district looks to build the building, he expects that bond to go to a vote.
But McDonald said while some people may question such a purchase at this time, with a down economy, it was actual “prudent longterm planning” because the price is low now and it suits all of their needs.
McDonald said the building was still in the “very generic conceptual plans” phase and will depend on the economy, but he said he expects the department to move to a new building on the property within five years.
“It’s a perfect piece of property,” he said.