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New Vancouver Operations Center could be ready in 2023, cost $125M

By , Columbian politics reporter
Published:
3 Photos
Technician Lanell Jackson works on a police vehicle in the Equipment Services building at the Vancouver Operations Center. Operations Manager Tim Buck says the Equipment Services building is outdated and cramped. Currently, the firetrucks being serviced are housed at Vancouver Fire Department Station 5 because they are too large for this location.
Technician Lanell Jackson works on a police vehicle in the Equipment Services building at the Vancouver Operations Center. Operations Manager Tim Buck says the Equipment Services building is outdated and cramped. Currently, the firetrucks being serviced are housed at Vancouver Fire Department Station 5 because they are too large for this location. Alisha Jucevic/The Columbian files Photo Gallery

By now, the Vancouver City Council knows the Vancouver Operations Center is, among other things, too small to effectively serve the community.

Built in 1951 and purchased by the city in 1978, it’s cramped, cracked and lacking access for people with disabilities. But it’s a vital piece of city services.

“It is the heartbeat of our city’s operation and maintenance functions,” Public Works Director Brian Carlson told the council during a workshop Monday.

In July, the council directed Carlson and staff to move forward with acquiring a piece of property that could better house the center. Now, the city is negotiating the purchase of a parcel that fits the projected space requirements — between 25 and 30 acres.

Where that parcel is located has yet to be made public. The only surety is the site will be within the utility service area, which includes the city limits and some adjoining areas.

City Manager Eric Holmes said the site being considered fits into the city’s 40-year horizon.

“Any site we would bring forward would be in the service area in that time frame,” Holmes said.

The current center stands at the corner of Fourth Plain Boulevard and General Anderson Avenue. When it opened, the center held 90 employees and 150 service vehicles. Now, 270 employees and 500 vehicles are based at the site, which totals 10.2 acres.

The center lies in the middle of the Fourth Plain district, one of several areas targeted for revitalization.

Relocation was appealing to the council for this reason. Moving the center would not only improve service levels, but open a large piece of property for redevelopment that better suits Fourth Plain’s future.

Finding a new site wasn’t easy, Carlson said. Most parcels large enough and zoned appropriately were either too far east or west of the service area.

“When we looked at potential sites, we considered a number of factors, one of those being good access to the transportation network,” he said.

The acquisition agreement is expected to come before council for approval in early 2019.

At that point, permitting and design by Mackenzie Engineering can get underway. Carlson said design should wrap up in 2020, allowing construction to start in 2021 with a projected move-in date in 2023.

Financing

Much like the center’s design and location, the financing is also in flux. The project is estimated to cost $125 million.

That includes design, construction, furnishing of the new center and any specialty equipment that may need to be purchased.

Carlson envisions a 60-40 cost split between utilities funds and the city’s general fund.

Funding will come from a combination of cash, from the sale of the center’s current site and issuing general obligation and utility revenue bonds. Carlson said bonds could be issued as early as 2020.

But again, the specifics are still being fine tuned, he said.

Council support

As the city council told Carlson, they’re on board with the project.

Councilor Alishia Topper said it represents a huge need for the city, even with the accompanying price tag.

Councilor Linda Glover said it would be irresponsible to not address the safety concerns that are synonymous with the center.

“We need to get into the 21st century here,” said Councilor Bill Turlay. “It’s very important that we bring your facility up to speed.”

Councilor Ty Stober said the project is not only exciting because of the potential for improvement of the center, but for the impact the move will have on the local community on Fourth Plain.

“We’re looking forward to the next steps,” said Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle.

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