The City of Chehalis has officially purchased the $1.2 million plot of land that will eventually be the site of the new Chehalis Fire Station at 1380 NW State Ave — the current location of Cascade Trader Inc.
In the meantime, Chehalis firefighters are operating out of a temporary location on Arkansas Way next to the Chehalis Walmart. That temporary site will be moved to one half of the recently-purchased piece of property by January 2021 and will be used until the construction of the new fire station building is complete.
Before the move to the temporary fire station location, the Chehalis firefighters had been staying at the Lewis County Fire District 6 (LCFD6) station since August of 2018 when its primary station was deemed unsafe due to asbestos and other issue.
The city anticipated that agreement lasting until the new fire station could be built. However, the LCFD6 Board of Directors terminated the station sharing agreement with the city of Chehalis this summer, forcing the city to find a temporary location for the city’s firefighters. The reason for the termination of the station-sharing agreement was not made clear but it was said that it “involved personnel”, according to former Chehalis Fire Chief Ken Cardinale.
Trent Lougheed, Chehalis Public Works Director, is the lead on the fire station project. He said that currently, the city is working with an engineering firm to determine what needs to be done in terms of prep work on the new fire station site.
“It’s a piece of land that we actually sought out because of its location. It’s out of the floodplain. The location makes it so that going around the train is no longer an issue because we can cross the Chamber Way bridge,” said Lougheed. “For the city, this was the desired location for the fire station.”
The site’s prep work includes the set up of temporary power facilities, water, sewer, curb and gutter installation, electric work, paving of the site, etc.
“Some of the work that’s involved with the site prep will benefit the actual site design overall. The idea of where we’re planning to locate the temporary station is so that construction of the new fire station can proceed with having to move,” said Chehalis City Manager Jill Anderson.
The purchase of the land and the site preparations was funded through a bond, which was approved by the city council. This type of private placement bond is paid for through existing city revenue — mainly through the real estate excise tax (REET) fund which funds capital projects and real estate purchases. The approved bond is for an amount not to exceed $1.725 million — covering the land purchase and site prep work.
In order to fund the construction of the new fire station building, the Chehalis City Council will need to decide to place a bond on the ballot to be voted on by Chehalis citizens. The decision of when is up to the council but Anderson anticipates it will occur sometime in 2022. Contingent upon weather delays the new fire station should take about 9 to 12 months to build once construction begins.
At this point, Anderson said the city does not have an estimated cost for the construction of the new fire station.
“We’re very fortunate that we had a time where that property became available and the city was in a position to buy it. I’m really proud of the city for moving forward on this very important project so that we can build a new fire station for our community,” said Anderson.
In other Chehalis Fire Department news, the city has been in the process of finding a new fire chief while Interim Fire Chief Ted Hendershot fills the position. Since then, Hendershot has verbally agreed to become the permanent fire chief for one to two years. Anderson said a contract should be signed in the next few days. The position was left vacant after former fire chief Ken Cardinale resigned to serve as the chief at LCFD6.
“While we got some good candidates, Chief Hendershot has just done such an incredible job, we would love to have him on board,” said Anderson.