With the Tehaleh development looking to add more than 9,000 homes in the Bonney Lake area, developers have been working with East Pierce Fire and Rescue to make sure future residents are safe.
Three years of negotiations paid off Oct. 17 when developer American Newland Communities deeded East Pierce a 3.3-acre plot of land for the eventual construction of Station 117.
“This is a strong example of good public-private partnerships,” Fire Chief Bud Backer said when he received the deed of land on the corner of Cascadia Boulevard and 135th.
Newland gifted the deed to East Pierce at no cost, saving the department roughly $330,000.
Additionally, the developer already cleared and graded the land to the department’s specifications, which would have cost the department around $175,000.
The cost of the land, the clearing and the grading are factored into the voluntary mitigation fees Newland will provide the department while the Tehaleh neighborhood is being constructed.
By the end of the neighborhood’s construction, Backer said in a later interview, Newland will have provided roughly a third of the cost of the new station, estimated at around $10 million.
“Newland recognized the need for public safety infrastructure and we worked together to find an equitable solution,” Backer said. “I think that Scott Jones and Newland Homes demonstrated that they want to have a positive impact on the community.”
Before Station 117 is built, however, East Pierce is looking at relocating Station 112 at 12006 124th Avenue East in Bonney Lake, which currently covers the Tehaleh area.
Backer said Station 112 needs to be replaced and the department is looking at moving it somewehere on 198th Avenue, not too far from its current location.
“In a new location, we believe 112 can serve Tehaleh adequately within response standards until approximately 70 to 75 percent buildout,” Backer continued.
If Station 112 can be moved, Backer estimated a 10 or 12 year timeline for Station 117.
Newland’s voluntary mitigation fees can also be used toward moving Station 112.
ADDITIONAL CREW NEEDED
Building Station 117 may seem expensive, but that’s nothing compared to the cost of staffing it.
“The new station will require an entirely new crew,” Backer said. “Depending on the staffing level, that could mean up to 22 new firefighters that we would have to add to our force” in order to keep the station staffed year-round.
The levy lid lifts recently approved by voters, which brought East Pierce’s fire and EMS levies to a total of $2 per $1,000 in assessed property value for the next four years, only bring enough revenue to the department to adequately staff current stations, Backer continued, “and do not provide enough revenue to add an entirely new fire station to the mix.”
He estimated personnel costs to be around $2 million every year when Station 117 is built.
“We hope that over time, the additional revenue of new construction will help get us close to that,” Backer said. “But at only two dollars per thousand, that’s a lot of new building that needs to occur.”