New Camas fire station headquarters will cost $26M

City officials may place 25-year bond on Aug. 6 Primary Election ballot

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category icon Camas, News, News, Public Safety
A rendering shows a design concept for the future Camas-Washougal Fire Department (CWFD) headquarters station in downtown Camas. Camas officials hope to build the new $26 million CWFD Fire Station 41 on city-owned land along Northeast Fourth Avenue, on a site currently housing City Hall Annex offices and a city staff parking lot.. (Illustration courtesy of the city of Camas)

Camas officials this week reviewed a plan to replace the aging Camas-Washougal Fire Department (CWFD) headquarters, known as Fire Station 41, station in downtown Camas.

“We were looking for a place that could handle the call volume we get for Station 41,” CWFD Fire Chief Cliff Free reminded Camas City Council members during the Council’s regular meeting Monday, March 18, explaining that the new station would need to be as close as possible to Fire Station 41’s high-volume service area surrounding downtown Camas.

In January, Free reviewed the site-selection process with city officials during the Council’s annual, two-day planning conference.

Having looked at eight sites that would allow firefighters and emergency medical responders to quickly serve downtown Camas and its surrounding areas, the city’s consultant team from the Battle Ground-based Johansson Wing Architects, found five sites that could also accommodate the entire CWFD headquarters program, vehicles and staff. The consultants eventually whittled those five sites into the top three.

“I was hoping to come to you and say, ‘We have three options. Help us pick the best option,’ but now we have one option,” Free said.

With the top three sites no longer in consideration, Free and the consultants returned to the original list of possible sites and realized the former Bank of America site at 528 N.E. Fourth Ave., in downtown Camas — a site the city of Camas purchased for $1.6 million in December 2018 to house its Camas City Hall Annex building and city staff parking lot — could, with a little tweaking and a partial road vacation on Northeast Everett Street between Third and Fourth avenues, meet the fire department’s headquarters needs.

“We went back to the list and said, ‘What can we do to make it work for us?’” Free told Council members in January. “If we vacate the north half of Everett Street, we could create the space we need.”

On Monday, Free said plans for the new headquarters station include public spaces along Northeast Fourth Avenue, including a “pocket park,” a community meeting room and an outdoor seating area to accommodate downtown visitors passing by the new fire station on their way to or from downtown shops, restaurants, the Camas library, Camas City Hall or the weekly Camas Farmer’s Market.

The plans also call for the purchase of a new fire engine to replace a vehicle that has come to the end of its usable lifespan.

The estimated cost of the new station and fire engine is around $26.3 million, Free said Monday.

To pay for the station, Camas officials will first need to gain approval from Camas voters.

Camas Finance Director Cathy Huber Nickerson said Monday that the City plans to use a 25-year bond to fund the fire station.

The bond would require the approval of at least 60% of Camas voters and would cost 13 cents per $1,000 assessed property value (APV), which works out to about $112 a year – or a little more than $9 a month — for the average Camas taxpayer, Huber Nickerson said.

The City passed a similar bond to expand and remodel the Camas Public Library in 2005 and finished paying that bond off in 2020, Huber Nickerson said.

The Council will discuss the fire station bond again during its workshop on Monday, April 1, and is expected to vote on an ordinance April 15, which would allow the City to place the issue before voters. If the Council agrees to call for an election, City staff will have until May 3 to submit the bond levy documents to the county’s elections office, and the bond levy would be on the Aug. 6 Primary Election ballot.

Free said Monday that, if at least 60% of the voters approve the bond measure this summer, the City would finish designing the station and “hopefully break ground the following year,” in 2025.