Bainbridge fire officials abandon hopes for November election on new fire facilities

The Bainbridge Island Fire Department won't go to voters this year to ask for approval of a multi-million dollar bond to pay for new facilities.

Commissioners for the department voted unanimously Thursday to postpone a ballot measure until February 2015.

The delay, officials said, would give the city of Bainbridge Island time to get caught up as city officials also consider options for replacing its aging police building on Winslow Way.

The fire department and the city have been talking since last year about the possibility of building a combined police-fire station.

Discussions on future facilities for the fire department, though, have been unfolding faster than the city's consideration of a new police station.

The fire department was also facing a tight deadline in putting a bond measure before voters in November. Fire commissioners would have needed to pass a resolution calling for the November election by the first week of August.

Earlier this month, however, city officials decided more analysis needed to be done on the potential location of a new police station.

Although the city and fire department have looked at sharing a new building on Madison Avenue, where the fire department's existing headquarters station is located, the city is also considering sites north and south of city hall that could potentially support a standalone police station, in the event that city officials eventually decide against pursuing a joint police-fire facility.

At their meeting Thursday, Bainbridge fire officials said they were willing to hit the pause button as the city continues to examine its options.

But fire commissioners also said they could only wait so long.

"It makes sense to wait until they make their decision," said Fire Board Chairman Scott Isenman.

"I don't think we should wait forever for them," he quickly added.

Fire commissioners will need to adopt a resolution by late December to save a spot on the February ballot for a bond measure.

Officials stressed that moving forward in February — even if the city has not made a decision — would not prevent the two from partnering on a joint facility.

Chief Hank Teran said the ballot measure could be written in a way that would allow a joint project be pursued at a later date.

The construction schedule for new and improved facilities would also not be impacted by a February vote, because work could first be focused on the replacement of the south end station and the upgrade of the north end station.

The cost of a new headquarters station for the fire department — without adding room for Bainbridge police — is estimated at $10 million.

The replacement of Station 22, the fire department's south end station, is estimated at $5.8 million. Upgrading Station 23, the department's station on Phelps Road NE, is estimated to cost $1.1 million.

A new combined facility for Bainbridge Island's police and fire departments is estimated at $15.3 million.


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