Yelm is growing, and so is the number of calls for emergency responders.
That’s why Southeast Thurston Fire Authority officials say they will likely be placing a bond before voters to pay for substantial remodeling of Lake Lawrence Station 22 and Rainier Station 24.
If passed, the bond would fund the department’s first new facilities in nearly 25 years.
During a regular business meeting earlier this year, the Southeast Thurston Board of Fire Commissioners said they planned on pursuing a bond measure in 2020 to pay for the Lake Lawrence remodel.
Now that they’ve started the grant writing for Rainier, it’s becoming more likely that the department could go out for a bond to repair the two stations with minimal impact to taxpayers, thanks to an allocation of existing impact fees and grant funding.
A bond measure would likely go on the November 2020 ballot. A draft would first need to be approved by fire commissioners.
”We haven't had new facilities or any additional staff stations in my time frame here. It’ll be nice to have Lake Lawrence staffed because it will decrease response times and also improve their insurance rating for that area out there,” Fire Chief Mark King said.
An exact number has not yet been determined, King said.
While the Rainier station is staffed, the Lake Lawrence station has been abandoned for more than a decade.
The Rainier station facilities are not currently set up for living conditions, and firefighters stay in a detached three-bedroom manufactured home on the property.
King said there currently is no room to grow at the station and that because firefighters are staying in a detached unit, call times are often impacted. The Rainier station is also the department’s second-busiest station and responds to roughly 70 calls a month, according to 2018 data.
The department as a whole is also up by about 200 calls this year, King said.
”The idea is remedy that by not tearing down the station, but adding on to it. Like the Station 22 project,” he said.
The department also plans on operating an additional ambulance out of the Rainier station, which would help them transport to hospitals in Olympia, King said, thanks to an increase in calls. Southeast Thurston currently operates one transport engine stationwide.
Southeast Thurston is currently in the design phase for both projects, King said. Initial designs for the Lake Lawrence station were finished up earlier this year, and the department is currently working with Coates Design Architects on the layout process of the Rainier Station.
So far, the department has roughly $310,000 committed to the Lake Lawrence station remodel, which includes a small amount in impact fee revenue, King said.
The 2020 timeframe gives the department time to look at response time improvement, communicate to the public and to get a better sense of what everything will cost.