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While the structure itself will not resuscitate victims of a vehicle collision or extinguish a house fire, it will house the people that do.
"This station is a huge upgrade to our present east-end operations, which is essentially a small volunteer-based station at Louella Road and our career firefighters responding out of Sequim," said Clallam County Fire District 3 Chief Steve Vogel while standing in the district's newest fire hall, at Sophus Road and U.S. Highway 101.
Grinnell Construction workers hammered on the roofline of the structure April 7 as Vogel discussed the building's origins, a cooperative venture between the fire district and the Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe.
"The tribe is donating about $1 million toward the project, including the land and most of the building's construction," Vogel said. "It is a sensible investment considering what growth has already happened east of Sequim and what development is slated for the coming years."
The tribe is wrapping up construction and landscaping on the Longhouse Market and Deli across Sophus Road from the new fire hall while also planning a casino bingo hall expansion and construction of a seven-story resort and hotel, according to
7 Cedars Casino manager Jerry Allen.
"When Chief Vogel came down and kicked around the idea of a new fire hall, we really saw a great opportunity to team up for the project," Allen said. "The facts that they know our development plans and that they are good at what they do are key to the safety and security of our situation here."
The market is due to open early in May and the bingo expansion is expected by the end of the year. The hotel project will take years.
"I think we are being proactive with the east end," Vogel said. "This is a strategically placed station and is being finished in time to handle what growth has occurred in recent years and what is on the horizon."
Vogel said the Louella station was leased decades ago from the state Parks and Recreation Commission, a lease that ran out years ago.
"They could have kicked us out, but they have been very patient in waiting for us to finish this project," Vogel said, indicating the parks commission plans to use the building as a maintenance facility.
The new fire hall should lower fire insurance rates in the Blyn area.
"I think the investment will pay off in saved lives and lowered insurance rates, which happens when a building is within a five-mile radius of a fire station," Vogel said, indicating the response time to Diamond Point is about 18 minutes, a number that will be cut significantly. "It feels good to see this station and other projects come to fruition."
In addition to the tribe's contribution, District 3 is pouring $400,000 into the project. Most of the money came from a maintenance and operations levy four years ago.
"I told taxpayers I would build a Carlsborg station and maintenance facility, a new Blyn station and buy new equipment and rigs for the district with the levy increase," Vogel said. "This building marks the completion of that promise."
Before passing the levy, county residents were paying $1.09 per $1,000 of assessed valuation on their property tax. The levy increased that amount to $1.50 and now it is about $1.12.
"What's left of the levy will fund six new career firefighters
in an ongoing basis to create a staff that can support the network of stations," Vogel said. "Now that we are nearing completion, I'm planning for another levy we will have to run in 2009."
Vogel said the emergency medical service levy approved by voters eight years ago is due to end in 2010.
"After the EMS levy runs out, paramedic and medical response funding will go to zero," Vogel said. "So while I hate to ask the voters to approve another levy, I'm sure they will agree it's something we can't go without."
Vogel also hopes to get the R-Corner station, west of Sequim near Blue Mountain Road and U.S. Highway 101, staffed by career firefighters rather than volunteers.
"The R-Corner station is a long-term goal," Vogel said. "But if we get it staffed, we would have continual and reliable coverage across our district."