The City of Kirkland has multiple projects in the works to ensure fire response times are as quick as possible.
Last month, the city held an informational meeting to gather public input on and share information about the creation of a new fire station 24 in Juanita.
The impetus for the project is to decrease response times in North Kirkland, especially on Finn Hill.
“(The new station) will provide better response times to the whole north end,” Kirkland City Manager Kurt Triplett said.
The proposed location is where Rite Aid now stands across the street from Juanita Elementary. It is currently going through an eminent domain (condemnation) process, which will make the building available to purchase later this year.
“The conversation is pretty amicable (with the property owner); they’re working with us,” Triplett said. “I am very confident we’ll reach an agreement with them.”
The creation of the new station is part of the 2012 Kirkland Fire Department Strategic Plan, and the Kirkland City Council funded the project in the 2015-16 budget, setting aside $2.5 million to acquire the property and $11 million for the construction of the new station.
Triplett said the appraised value of the Rite Aid property is now $3 million, and the extra $500,000 has yet to be found but could be taken from the $11 million for the construction.
“The goal is to have this new station 24 fully funded with existing resources within the budget,” Triplett said.
The city has already contracted an architecture firm, TCA, to design the station, and they hope to start construction at the beginning of 2018, wrapping it up at the end of the year or the beginning of 2019.
The city plans to hold additional public information sessions to engage with the public and address concerns.
“We intend to have a really robust communication program to the whole community, in addition to the neighborhood,” Triplett said.
The main concerns are related to the nearby Juanita Elementary School and include noise issues during school hours and safety issues during drop-off and pick-up times.
“Most of the community is very supportive of the idea that we’re trying to reduce response times and get to people faster, (but) there is concern about noise (from the new station) close to the school,” Kirkland Fire Chief Joe Sanford said.
Sanford said in studying the neighborhood around the proposed station, they determined four trucks go through the intersection by the school per day right now. He said with the new station, the number would likely only total five, an increase of one per day.
“It shouldn’t add a whole lot of noise,” he said.
Other residents have raised concerns about what might happen if firefighters are called out during the drop-off or pick-up time at the elementary school. Sanford said they will plan to control the traffic lights in the neighborhood and put other things in place to ensure everyone’s safety.
More information about the proposed new station 24 can be found online at kirklandwa.gov by searching for “North Kirkland Fire Station.”
In addition to the new station, work will soon begin to renovate Holmes Point Fire Station 25 on Finn Hill. The renovations, which include seismic and HVAC updates, will cost approximately $3 million and are being paid for by leftover funds from the former Fire District 41, according to Triplett.
The design for the renovations is almost complete, and construction is due to begin this summer, finishing in spring 2018.
During the renovations, Sanford said the personnel from station 25 would be operating out of the old station 24.
Other Kirkland fire stations are due for renovations similar to the ones at Holmes Point, and the city council and city staff have begun the process to see if the community is interested in supporting a 2018 ballot measure to fund them. Triplett said the estimates for the unfunded renovations will total somewhere from $30-40 million.
“The council has funded a stakeholder process to see if people are interested,” Triplett said. “(Other stations) need the same kind of rehabilitation (as station 25) to support a bigger city.”