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News / Clark County News

Camas, Washougal officials move ahead on fire station replacements

Bond issue will be on ballot in Camas, maybe Washougal

By Kelly Moyer and Doug Flanagan, Camas-Washougal Post-Record
Published: April 20, 2024, 6:09am

CAMAS — Voters in Camas and Washougal will likely decide the fate of fire station replacements in their cities.

On Monday, Camas City Council members voted to place a proposition on the Aug. 6 ballot asking voters to approve a $26.3 million bond to build a new Camas-Washougal Fire Department headquarters — a replacement for Station 41 in downtown Camas — and to purchase a new fire engine.

“We are in dire need of a new station that can carry us through the next decades as our area grows and our station (exceeds) its lifespan,” CWFD Fire Chief Cliff Free told the city council on Monday.

If approved, the new headquarters would be built at the former Bank of America site along Northeast Fourth Avenue in downtown Camas. The city purchased the site for $1.6 million in December 2018 to house its Camas City Hall Annex.

Plans for the new headquarters station include public spaces along Northeast Fourth Avenue, a community meeting room and an outdoor seating area.

The bond would also fund the purchase of a new fire engine to replace a vehicle that has come to the end of its usable lifespan.

Free told council members in March that if voters approve the bond measure, the city would finish designing the new headquarters station and break ground in 2025.

To pass, the bond requires a 60 percent supermajority.

Washougal station

The city of Washougal and Portland-based MacKenzie Architecture unveiled the design concept for the city’s fire station/police station upgrade during an April 11 open house at Camas-Washougal Fire Station 43.

Washougal Mayor David Stuebe said the new station will serve as a cornerstone of the city.

“I think it’s something for the next 50 years,” he said. “If we’re going to build Washougal right, we want to be proud of our city. … We’re a growing city. People are proud to live here. I think the whole community will be proud to say, ‘That’s our firehouse. We were responsible for building this thing.’”

“I really like a lot of visibility — a lot of glass, a lot of windows,” Washougal City Councilor Molly Coston said. “It looks like it fits here. And it’s in the same vein with some of the materials as some of the homes around it. Even though the homes are smaller, it doesn’t really stand out. … It’s a modern design, contemporary, but yet I don’t think it will go out of style.”

City leaders announced their intention to construct a new facility in December 2023, saying the current fire station needs “immediate and total replacement.”

According to the city, the current building frequently floods with stormwater, intermittently has sewage backup, does not have a dedicated space for decontaminating clothing and gear, lacks an exhaust system for fire engines to maintain healthy air quality, would not withstand a significant earthquake, lacks space for additional firefighters/emergency medical services personnel to meet growing demands, does not meet Americans with Disabilities Act standards for public access, and lacks a public restroom.

The new fire station would be adjacent to and adjoining with the Washougal Police Department station to allow for shared use of break rooms, fitness facilities and a training/community room, according to the city.

The council will vote next week on a proposal to place a $15.7 million bond for the project on the Aug. 6 primary election ballot.

“We’re looking at a term of 25 years,” Scott said. “The all-in financing cost is right around 4.5 percent, and that equates to an excess levy rate of 19 cents per $1,000. … The monthly cost to the median home in Washougal is $9.23 a month. That’s the investment that voters would be considering for our public safety future.”

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Coston said the bond numbers “look really good.”

The project is estimated to cost about $17.5 million.

The city of Washougal last issued a general obligation bond in 2002 for the construction of a police station. The bond was retired in 2022.

If this bond passes, design work would begin immediately, with construction to follow, according to the city. If the bond fails, city leaders said they will “use what we have as best we can, but eventually, we’ll have trouble responding to emergencies, including longer response times, and we’ll have more trouble recruiting new firefighters to replace those who retire.”

To learn more

For more information and to provide feedback, visit cityofwashougal.us/774/Fire-Station-43-Replace ment-and-Police-S.