North Bend, fire district explore new deal for station

The two-year saga to replace North Bend's aging fire station took a new twist last week, as the city of North Bend and King County Fire District 38 explored a new partnership in the fire hall project.

Frustrated by the dragging negotiations, North Bend's city council called a study session last Tuesday, March 23, on ways to build a station solo.

However, District 38 commissioners called a meeting earlier that day to hammer out a proposal to split costs.

District 38's proposal lets the city pick the station's site, slated for city property on Maloney Grove Road between North Bend Way and Cedar Falls Way.

Both city and fire district would share the cost of building the center, up to $2.5 million apiece. North Bend would be responsible for any costs exceeding that share.

For five years after completion, the district would hold joint ownership. After five years, the district would transfer ownership to the city in return for perpetual rights of use.

"In a nutshell, they presented us with another option for an interlocal agreement," said Mayor Ken Hearing. "They suggested they'd be willing to pay for half of our fire station and expect no ownership going into it."

Hearing called for time to study the proposal, and said the council must give him guidelines for negotiation.

"My council is adamant that we are moving forward with this project," Hearing said. "Everyone, including the general public, agrees that our fire station is at a sad state of affairs and we're at risk of losing our station in the even of another earthquake. We really can't delay this, this has gone on way too long."

If the city goes into construction alone, plans call for a voter-approved construction bond. The city has pegged construction costs at about $7 million.

The council will discuss the station proposal at their next work study meeting in the third week of April.

Following their discussion, the council will give Hearing direction on negotiations.

The current fire hall, adjacent to North Bend City Hall, was built as a volunteer station in the 1940s and has been remodeled several times. Fire crews living there have dealt with rat infestations, asbestos and cramped sleeping quarters. The discovery of asbestos resulted in a temporary emergency closure of the station in 2008.

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