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DH Fire Station has been completed | Guest column

May 2, 2013 · Updated 12:43 PM
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by KEVIN O’BRIEN

Orcas Fire Chief

Orcas Island Fire and Rescue is pleased to report to our community that we have completed the construction of Deer Harbor Station 24.

We believe that the new station will improve our services in EMS, life safety, fire and rescue. OIFR is committed to maintaining strict fiscal responsibility and transparency in all our operations. With this in mind, we issue the following report to the community regarding the construction of Station 24.

In 1999, voters approved a special levy to improve EMS, Fire, and Rescue services on Orcas Island.  We have achieved the following objectives of the levy from which we are currently funded:

• Construction of Headquarters Station 21 (2002)

• Two Structural Fire Engines (2004)

• Two Vacuum Tenders (Water Trucks, 2007)

• Four WASP Engines (2009)

• One Rescue Truck (2009)

• Two Ambulances (2001 and 2009)

• Improved Volunteer Benefits (For recruitment and retention)

• A full time paramedic on duty at Station 21, 24 hours a day

• The purchase of Westsound Station 22 (2011)

• The construction of Deer Harbor Station 24

Because of strong financial management practices, OIFR currently has no debt for any of our facilities or equipment.

Through strategic planning processes and addressing future growth in the community, the Board of Fire Commissioners authorized the construction of a new fire station in Deer Harbor to improve our response to EMS, fire, rescue, or any other incident.

Beginning in 2008, OIFR reached out to the community of Deer Harbor to seek citizen involvement in the process of planning and development.

Through a competitive bid process, Wellman and Zuck Construction was hired to complete phase one of the project, which resulted in the construction of an apparatus bay that was able to house four response vehicles and a “shell” of a building that would have the ability to be finished in the future. Ground was officially “broken” on June 30, 2010. OIFR recognized cost savings could be found for future improvements to Station 24 by hiring Wellman and Zuck to complete additional projects outside of the original bid: rough electrical, rough plumbing, fire sprinkler system, insulation throughout building, concrete slabs, aprons and driveways, shed roofs over man doors and copula addition.

Commissioner Duke provided the roofing labor at no charge to the district. He also gave significant volunteer hours throughout the building process.

The commissioners of OIFR approved phase two funding in October of 2012 by hiring Natural Home Builders to finish the main and second floors of Station 24. Many OIFR members and community participants volunteered precious time in planning, consulting, meeting, and laboring for the project.

Auditor’s report

According to the Washington State Auditor, in the district’s pursuit to reduce costs, we have violated small works regulations.

Results from the 2010-2011 audit performed by the Washington State Auditor will say that OIFR should not have accepted volunteer labor from Duke. Additionally, the auditor will state that the district should have gone out to bid for the cost-saving opportunities provided by Wellman and Zuck found in phase one.

Orcas Island Fire and Rescue accepts responsibility for the findings with the response that our actions were driven by the goal of saving taxpayer dollars while improving service to our community.

Total costs

Building anything in the San Juan Islands is costly considering the expenses of transport and logistics. Public projects add factors not required in the private sector. The following are some critical elements that affected the cost: prevailing wage as determined by the state of Washington; regulations and community mandates directing design, construction practices, and landscaping; utilities; logistics. The following is a cost breakdown for construction of Station 24:

2008-2009: Design, engineering, permitting, legal, insurance, architectural: $136,986.

2010: Wellman and Zuck construction: $763,722.

2012-2013: Phase Two, Natural Home Builders: $129,417.52

Today, the community of Deer Harbor has a fully operational fire station housing four response vehicles. The facility is equipped with a meeting room, kitchen, two large dorm rooms, a large training room, a communications office, two bathrooms, and record storage.

By June of 2013, we plan to have volunteer residents living at Station 24 with the ability to respond to any incident. This will improve incident response times, provide better service, and offer an effective maintenance program for the facility.

In the event of a major emergency incident such as an earthquake or large wildland fire, Station 24 could be used as an emergency shelter and coordination center.

OIFR is planning to use Station 24 as an EMS training center where our personnel can experience hands-on training in a focused environment. We often host visiting instructors and presenters who provide training and education to our members. Station 24 can serve as accommodations for our visitors.

OIFR looks to work with the Deer Harbor community to open the current occupancy status of Station 24 to allow public meetings and events. We believe that since Deer Harbor Station 24 is owned by the public, it should be open to the public. It is the community’s fire station.

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