Central Emergency Services staff wait to receive doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine on Friday, Dec. 18, 2020, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Central Emergency Services staff wait to receive doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine on Friday, Dec. 18, 2020, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Assembly mulls bond for new CES fire station

Replacement of the current station is estimated to cost $16.5 million

Borough voters could get the final say on whether or not the Kenai Peninsula Borough replaces Central Emergency Services’ Soldotna fire station. Assembly members gave initial approval at their June 21 meeting to put the $16.5 million project as a bond proposal on the Oct. 4 municipal ballot.

The project has been identified as a top priority by the Central Emergency Service Area Board. In addition to providing more space, the project would allow borough employees currently operating at different facilities to work in the same building. CES has already purchased the land for the replacement station.

CES Chief Roy Browning and Kenai Peninsula Borough Purchasing and Contracting Director John Hedges wrote in a June 9 memo to assembly members that the station, which was built in 1956 as a community hall, received additions between 1964 and 1967, in 1973 and 1984.

“Even with these additions, the station has failed to keep up with today’s operations and demand,” Browning and Hedges wrote.

Browning and Hedges wrote that CES Station 1 is the busiest fire station on the Kenai Peninsula but that options for expansion to accommodate services “have been exhausted.” CES Station 1 is staffed, Browning and Hedges wrote, to give initial and supplemental support to the other four fire stations that together serve about 25,000 people.

An overview of the project shared on the borough’s website estimates that the current CES Station 1 responds to more than 3,000 incidents annually.

The station was first evaluated for possible renovations or replacement in 2004 by the CES Service Area Advisory Board, Browning and Hedges wrote. A preliminary engineering report completed by the borough found that, among other things, the current station is undersized and has structural deficiencies.

Additionally, Browning and Hedges wrote that the report found a lack of space for storage, living and fire truck and ambulance spaces. The station’s parking lot is also too small to accommodate volunteer and off-duty responses and training events. A new station would house station administrators and training and allow emergency responders to operate under the same headquarters fire station, as opposed to at different borough facilities.

If approved by voters, the borough estimates the bond would cost taxpayers an extra $36 per $100,000 of taxable property valuable. However, Browning and Hedges said completion of the project would lower operating and maintenance costs for the maintenance area.

Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly members gave initial approval to putting the bond on the ballot during their June 21 meeting. The issue will be up for a public hearing and final vote during the assembly’s July 5 meeting. Assembly members will also consider a request for $3,500 to distribute information about the bond to voters.

The July 5 hearing will come two weeks after assembly members gave final approval to putting a different bond package — worth $65.5 million — on the October ballot. That bond package would fund maintenance projects at Kenai Peninsula Borough School District facilities.

More information about the bond proposal can be found on the borough’s website at kpb.us.

Reach reporter at Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

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