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Corvallis Fire Department expansion plan approved by council
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Corvallis Fire Department expansion plan approved by council

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The Corvallis Fire Department is looking to continue its expansion.

The department hired six new firefighters after the Corvallis City Council added a public safety fee to residents’ and businesses’ city services bills in November, 2018.

The addition of the firefighters was aimed at giving the department the crew strength to operate both ambulances and fire trucks at two of its stations. The new push will give the department more room for its equipment and staff.

At Monday night’s City Council meeting councilors unanimously backed a proposal that aims to increase the footprint of Station No. 3 on Northwest Circle Boulevard and replace Station No. 4 on Southwest Tunison Avenue with a new station on Highway 99W. The proposal was outlined fy Fire Chief Ken McCarthy at an executive session before councilors signed off on the plan in their open session.

Although the expansion plan at each site will cost in the millions of dollars the city is getting a good deal on the land required to make the proposal work.

Station No. 3 will expand 50 yards east toward the Boys & Girls Club of Corvallis by taking over portions of the grassy field between the station and the club.

The land is owned by the Corvallis School District. The district and the city have cut a tentative deal in which the district will donate the land for the station expansion and the city will repair two tennis courts and add lights to them at adjacent Linus Pauling Middle School.

The tennis court piece will cost $30,000 to $40,000, said Meredith Pettit, the city’s Parks and Recreation director. The fire department will get land to add an apparatus bay and additional parking at the station.

There is no room to expand at Station No. 4 on Tunison. The facility is hemmed in by the neighborhood and an adjacent park.

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The goal of the expansion plan is to build a new station on about 1.25 acres of property south of the B&R Auto Wrecking yard on Highway 99W. B&R is donating the property to the city.

Although B&R co-owner Brian Perlenfein could not be reached for comment it is likely that the property gift is a bit of a goodwill gesture. On July 5, 2016 the main building at B&R burned in a fire that was put out by the CFD.

CFD Chief Ken McCarthy plans to move the city’s water rescue equipment to the new station, placing it closer to the Willamette River.

“With the addition of the public safety fee we are moving away from the either/or model and we think this will decrease our response times,” McCarthy said. “We also think this will help us anticipate and build for the future as the city continues to grow.”

“Thanks go to Brian Perlenfein and (the school district) for working with us so that we will have the space to improve our fire department facilities,” said Mayor Biff Traber at the council session.

The projects remain tentative because they are part of a broader facilities assessment that the city has just embarked on.

City Manager Mark Shepard hired back former Public Works Director Mary Steckel to lead the effort in conjunction with Makers Architecture and Urban Design of Seattle. The $175,000 project will analyze city needs at all buildings, from City Hall to fire stations to the Public Works compound and the Parks & Rec operations center in Avery Park. The goal is to upgrade the spaces in which city employees work rather than improve public access to them.

Steckel and her team are scheduled to update the council at Sept. 9 and Oct. 7 work sessions.

Shepard has urged the council to consider using the $13.8 million the city will receive in federal American Relief Plan Act (ARPA) funds to address the facilities needs that come out of the assessment.

Shepard noted the “issue about financing” the Fire Department proposals “will be tied into the larger facilities needs work and we will explore all potential options.”

That includes the ARPA funds as well as a possible bond measure or “other state/federal funding opportunities that present themselves,” he said.

“A move of Fire Station No. 4 will improve response times as South Corvallis grows (and has) direct access to Highway 99W,” Shepard said, noting that the move “would also create an opportunity to repurpose the existing station for community-focused purposes.”

The city also owns fire stations on 35th Street (Station No. 2), Harrison (Fire Station No. 1), on Fair Oaks Avenue (Fire Station No. 5) as well as the Lewisburg station that is staffed by the CFD but paid for by the Corvallis rural Fire Protection District. Fire Station No. 5 was closed because of budget cuts in 2012, but the city still uses its meeting room for community events and other gatherings.

Contact reporter James Day at jim.day@lee.net or 541-812-6116. Follow at Twitter.com/jameshday or gazettetimes.com/blogs/jim-day.

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