UPDATE: City Council Discusses Where Burien's New Fire Station Should Be Built; Take Our Poll... 3

Photo courtesy Burien/Normandy Park Fire Dept.

by Ralph Nichols

The location is essential. A delay will cost money. Yet some members of the Burien City Council insisted at their August 17th meeting that selecting a site for a new fire station must go “hand in hand” with providing replacement parking downtown.

Following their discussion, which often focused more on parking than on the fire station, lawmakers asked City Manager Mike Martin to bring to the first council meeting in September more suggestions for new parking lots.

The Burien/Normandy Park Fire Department needs to replace its outdated existing station at the corner of SW 151st Street and 8th Ave SW. On that point there is no disagreement. The question is where to build it without reducing already limited public parking downtown.

A critical requirement for the new station is a site that will allow a response time of no more than seven minutes anywhere within Fire District No. 2. Locating the new facility close to main arterials that provide direct access to State Route 509 is also important.

One general location that meets these needs – in which the department has expressed interest – is between SW 146th Street and SW 154th Street and Ambaum Boulevard and 4th Ave SW.

Topping the department’s preferred list is the municipal parking lot between 150th and 151st Streets on the east half of the block east of 8th Ave SW. Only three vehicles were observed parked in this lot early Tuesday afternoon.

Martin told the council he had identified two city-owned properties that could replace most, but not all, of the parking spaces in the municipal lot should the new fire station is built there. One is west of Southwest Sixth Avenue just north of retail parking behind businesses along SW 152nd Street. The other is west of 6th Ave SW adjacent to the Post Office between 150th and 151st streets.

These locations “might replace (municipal lot) parking that might serve the city’s interests and also serve the fire district’s interests,” Martin said. In addition, about 15 city fleet vehicles can be parked in a secure lot at the district’s other station in Normandy Park.

Fire Chief Mike Marrs told council members the fire district would like to move forward with siting and planning the new station “as quickly as possible” because of current “favorable construction costs and bond sales.” One source later told the B-Town Blog that, given current prices, beginning work now could save the district $1-2 million.

Marrs added the fire district also has identified two other potential sites. He didn’t disclose their location to avoid the possibility of inflating sale prices.

But Councilwoman Lucy Krakowiak said while “public safety is the number one priority for our citizens … downtown parking is a need, too…. For the big picture of parking solutions, we need to bring private property owners together and see how to use private lots that sit largely vacant.”

Deputy Mayor Sue Blazak added, “The two issues go hand in hand. While there should be a spot for the fire department, we can’t separate it from parking.” Blazak is running for election to a second term in November.

Councilman Gordon Shaw disagreed, declaring that “putting off the fire station for parking is unreasonable.” In their discussion, he noted, council members were “putting the parking issue over the fire issue. We’ve got our priorities upside down. Parking is not the chief’s issue.”UPDATE: City Council Discusses Where Burien's New Fire Station Should Be Built; Take Our Poll... 4

Shaw suggested at an earlier meeting that the fire department should build its new station on the municipal parking lot site, and that this parking be replaced not with a single lot but by clusters of spaces at various locations in the downtown area.

On the busiest day downtown this year, when Town Square and the new library/city hall were dedicated in June, “less than 10 vehicles were parking in (the municipal) lot,” Councilwoman Rose Clark said at Monday’s meeting. Suggesting that the fire department could make better use of that location, she voiced support for building the new station there.

Mayor Joan McGilton said she “would like to see a decision regarding the municipal parking lot, and then go on to a discussion of parking. I don’t know if we can solve our parking needs in time to meet the fire district’s schedule.”

The new fire station will be paid for by a sale of bonds that was approved by voters in the fire district last November, as will the Normandy Park fire station at 135 S. Normandy Road. Plans call for rebuilding that station at the current location.

Marrs says new fire stations are needed because the existing facilities were built about 50 years ago when the transition from volunteer to primarily paid firefighters was just beginning. Now the aging buildings – not built for equipment for such things as equipment for contamination calls that weren’t part of the service then – “have all sorts of deficiencies including seismic.” And the existing Burien station “can’t house the department’s ladder truck downtown, where it’s needed.”

“We understand that (parking) is the primary concern of the city council,” he adds. “They don’t want to lose parking. That’s why they’re reluctant to sell the municipal parking lot to us without replacement parking.” Currently the fire department has no replacement parking offer, but “we’re working on what one might look like and what the costs might be.”

So…where do YOU think the new fire department station should be built? Please take our poll, or Comment below…

[poll id=”35″]