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Bainbridge and fire department begin planning for shared-use facility

The Bainbridge Island City Council gave its city manager the go-ahead this week to begin efforts to establish a facility that would house both the island’s fire and police departments under one roof.

“We’ve had a number of discussions with the Bainbridge Island Fire Department with the potential of joining with them on a joint police and fire safety building,” City Manager Doug Schulze said at the council meeting Monday.

“This is the first step toward memorializing that joint effort,” he said.

Fire Chief Hank Teran has previously noted that the two departments could share facilities such as locker rooms, fitness areas and meeting rooms. Schulze has also said that talks have centered on taking an existing fire department building and converting it to serve both departments.

But talk on Monday did not get into specifics. Rather, it was a formal thumbs up to pursue planning.

One detail was discussed, however. A proposed contract between the fire department and the city mentions the possibility of hiring a planning consultant to help guide the effort. Schulze said that the fire department has a consultant in mind; one it has used before.

Schulze also said that the cost of the consultant would likely come in under $30,000, and that the fire department would also likely take on a majority of the funding responsibility.

The idea for a joint facility has been long discussed by city and fire department officials. Until now, the concept has gained little traction. In 2008, murmurs of combining island police, fire and court facilities surfaced but did not go very far.

Times have changed and tight budgets and shared needs — such as aging facilities for both departments — may be the motivation each party needs to make the idea become reality.

The island’s fire department, and the city, are separate government entities, each taking a different slice of the tax-funding pie. Joining forces would allow each party to share the burdens of running their respective departments.

It would also allow the city to move the police station from its current location on Winslow Way and Highway 305. Schulze has previously expressed a desire to move the police station from the corner so something that more aptly matches the downtown core could move in.

The fire department currently has three stations on the island: the Madison Avenue headquarters; the station on Bucklin Hill; and the Phelps Road station which is sparsely staffed and used.

 

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