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Fire department submits costly project list | Facilities plan calls for station replacements, new facility downtown
Interim Bellevue Fire Chief Mark Risen is seeking a major investment in public safety from the City Council through a facilities master plan unveiled Monday, replacing a 1979 model as outdated as some of the fire stations around the city.
The total program cost is estimated at $129.6 million in 2014, with cost escalation predictions as high as $151.8 million under a 12-year scheduling option and $139.5 million for six.
Keith Schreiber, whose consulting firm worked with the department to draft the facilities plan, said the department has maximized space available at its nine Bellevue stations, but many are in need of replacement and provide little room for in-house training, the demand for which has grown greatly since the events of 9-11.
Response times are not a current cause for concern, Risen said, though the locations of the stations, mixed with a lack of road connectivity in the city, has prevented firefighters from meeting National Fire Protection Association standards.
Substantial growth in downtown Bellevue, expected to remain constant in the future and not considered in the '79 facilities plan, has made construction of a new downtown station one of the department's top three priorities. Land acquisition for such a station is estimated at $14.25 million. Shoring up response times downtown is also important, according to an executive summary of the facilities plan, because there is also an increased need for shorter vertical responses at high-rise buildings – getting firefighters from the base to the floor level where an emergency is occurring.
Schreiber said fire and emergency medical service calls are projected to remain high downtown, as well as in the Crossroads and Bel-Red areas of the city.
Also rating high in priorities is replacement of the 47-year-old Fire Station No. 5. Estimated to cost $11.6 million to replace, Schreiber said Station No. 5 is the "smallest, weakest, oldest station" used by the department.
A third top priority, and the most expensive, is expansion of the city's Public Safety Training Center, which can't meet the demand for regional training required under a recently signed interlocal agreement. The training center lacks enough area for development of alternative training scenarios, such as urban search and rescue, Schreiber said.
The plan also calls for the eventual replacement and relocation of fire stations No. 4 and No. 6, with the remaining six stations requiring renovations. The plan is entered into the capital improvement program, which the council is still in the process of prioritizing.
Deputy Mayor Kevin Wallace said he supports the plan, but there will need to be more work done to determine financing options and how to "chip away" at the pricey project list.
Risen said some funding could be sourced from fire departments in Kirkland, Redmond, North Shore and Mercer Island, all of which coordinate training with Bellevue. He added he couldn't predict what funding could be accomplished under a six-year plan.
"We've gone window shopping," Risen said of seeking new sites for station relocations, "but we don't have a charge card, so it's very hard for us to do that seriously."