Photo courtesy Nikiski Fire Department This map provided by the Nikiski Fire Department shows the service area's two exisiting fire stations and the proposed location of a third station at the intersection of Escape Route and Holt-Lamplight Road. The station was originally planned to be built in the early 2000s but was tabled because of the economy. Now, the Nikiski Fire Service Area Advisory Board has enough money to pay for the project out of pocket.

Photo courtesy Nikiski Fire Department This map provided by the Nikiski Fire Department shows the service area's two exisiting fire stations and the proposed location of a third station at the intersection of Escape Route and Holt-Lamplight Road. The station was originally planned to be built in the early 2000s but was tabled because of the economy. Now, the Nikiski Fire Service Area Advisory Board has enough money to pay for the project out of pocket.

Third Nikiski fire station planned

The Nikiski Fire Department is dusting off plans for a project that first began more than 13 years ago.

A third fire station long been in the works has come to the forefront of the Nikiski Fire Service Area Board’s agenda once more to improve service to residents and make good on an old goal, said board chair Mark Cialek. The property at the intersection of Escape Route and Holt Lamplight Road was purchased for a new station several years ago and the service area board and department began the design phase of the project in 2003, said Nikiski Fire Chief James Baisden.

Building the third station would bring the number of people living within five miles of a fire station up to about 70 percent of the residents in the approximately 6,000 square mile service area, he said.

“That location adds another 20 percent of our population,” Baisden said.

Insurance companies use ratings of a fire department’s coverage and performance, called ISO ratings for the company that does Nikiski Fire Department’s evaluation, to determine insurance rates for residents. The more residents that live within five driving miles of a station, the lower the rating for a department on a scale of 1-10, with 1 being the safest rating.

The Nikiski Fire Department got a level 6 rating during its last ISO evaluation, Baisden said in a previous Clarion interview. Building the third station could improve that rating by bringing more people close to a fire station and benefit residents by lowering what they pay for fire insurance, he said.

The department has been working with the Kenai Peninsula Borough and found that there are about 2,000 properties in the area designated for the station.

“What they can show is that we can estimate that by having this station located over there on Holt Lamplight, that we can probably save the taxpayers on average about $500,000 annually,” Baisden said.

Residents would have to reach out to their insurance companies on their own and to check their eligibility for lower insurance rates.

The project was tabled back in 2004 when the service area advisory board deemed it inappropriate given the economic climate, Cialek said. Since then, the board has looked at it periodically and is now bringing it back to the public to refresh their memory and make good on the promise it made to residents back then, he said.

“Because of the prudent way the board has been handling itself for the last 15 years … we are in a good position to do this,” Cialek said.

Costs for the actual construction of the station are estimated to be between roughly $2.5 million and $3 million, Baisden said. The department has this money in its fund balance and would not need to go to bond or ask voters in the service area to raise the mill rate, he said.

“We’ve always been very conservative out here with what we’ve done,” Baisden said, saying lack of capital projects in the service area over the years has helped the department save up.

The station design plans will have to be updated since standards have changed since the early 2000s, Cialek said. Security is a higher concern these days, he said, and LED lights weren’t on anyone’s radar during the first round of planning, for example.

The fire department and service area board are collecting public comments about the proposed station, including its location and other details.

“We want to hear the good and the bad because … if people don’t think it’s the right thing right now then we need to hear that too,” Baisden said.

The station would be manned, but only by volunteers at first so that the department wouldn’t have to hire any additional staff, he said. Nor would the department have to buy any extra equipment, because it has enough to be spread to a third station currently being housed in the first two stations.

After taking public comments, the service area board will submit the plan for the third station to Borough Mayor Mike Navarre, who can accept or veto it, Cialek said. If Navarre were to approve the project, it would go before the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly for final approval.

If all the boxes are checked without any roadblocks, Cialek said the project could be ready to go out to bid by early 2017.

Residents of the Nikiski Fire Service Area can send comments to nikiskifire@kpb.us.

Reach Megan Pacer at megan.pacer@peninsulaclarion.com.

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