After 15 years of stop-and-start efforts, Concrete locks down final funding for its planned Fire and Life Safety Building: a $1 million Community Development Block Grant.
By Jason Miller
posted on 2.7.14
The second and final piece of funding for Town of Concrete’s planned Fire and Life Safety Building fell into place on Dec. 31, 2013. Word came from State Senator Kirk Pearson and U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene that the town had secured $1 million in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds toward construction of the much-needed building.
On Jan. 6, Pearson and DelBene arrived at Concrete Town Hall with Washington State Dept. of Commerce Director Brian Bonlender to deliver a novelty check for the full amount, and congratulate the town on the completion of a crucial milestone.
The CDBG money will be combined with a $785,000 State Capital Budget appropriation that Pearson had pushed for during 2013. The combined funds will fully finance the new building.
Concrete’s current fire hall is about 100 years old and deteriorating rapidly. Perched at the crest of a hill that drops down to the Baker River, its foundation is threatened by erosion that cannot be mitigated effectively because of Critical Areas regulations that govern the slope behind it. The building’s roof sags and needs to be propped up in multiple places, its tower leans, and the interior space simply isn’t big enough for modern firefighting equipment.
“Public safety is the primary duty of local government, and for too long, Concrete has been forced to deliver this service from an antiquated building that is in desperate need of replacement,” said DelBene. “Securing the funding for this building has been a team effort since day one, and I’m proud to have worked with Sen. Pearson and local Concrete officials to help deliver the final piece of funding for this important building that will serve the people of Concrete for years to come.”
The Fire and Life Safety Building was a priority for former Concrete Mayor Judd Wilson, who worked toward making it a reality during his term, which ended at the close of 2013.
Wilson and Concrete Fire Chief Rich Philips made three trips to Olympia during 2013, meeting with Senator Pearson and other officials and delivering a message of urgency. The town suffered a setback last year when the state legislature delayed the appropriation necessary to secure the CDBG funding. “Senator Pearson was instrumental in dealing with that situation,” said Wilson. “I’m just glad it all came through and we didn’t have to wait for another grant cycle. Now I know the town’s going to get a nice fire station.”
At Wilson’s suggestion, the town tapped Michelle Mazzola of Leavenworth-based Resource Solutions to write the CDBG grant application.
“This project is a great example of what we can accomplish when we all work together to get the job done,” said Pearson, who represents Concrete as part of the 39th District. “I am grateful that I was able to work with my colleagues in the Legislature, Dir. Bonlend, Congresswoman DelBene and the Town of Concrete to make the new Fire and Life Safety Building a priority and secure the funding necessary to make it a reality.”
The new Fire and Life Safety Building will be modeled after the McLean Road Fire Dept. Memorial Station on Memorial Highway west of Mount Vernon. That single-story structure has three large bays and includes two mezzanines inside, one of which could be finished off later to create offices.
The building will be located on Main Street in Concrete, out of the flood inundation zone, between the Superior Building and the community garden, on what is now a stockpile for the town’s Public Works Department. The building will be placed on the site to accommodate possible future expansion of a fourth bay to the west and and a training facility along its east side.
Concrete volunteer firefighters had long pushed for a new facility; the news that funding had come through was met with enthusiasm. Firefighter Jim Past quipped on Facebook, “Hats off to the volunteer firefighters who spearheaded this idea many years ago. Way to go, Concrete Volunteer Fire Dept. and Chief Philips. No more mouse droppings in the boots!”
Gov. Jay Inslee commented on the town’s win in a press release, calling the announcement “an example of creative and effective problem-solving at its best, with all levels of government working together for the good of a community in need. It simply would not have happened without elected officials joining forces toward a common goal.”
“Congratulations to the Town of Concrete, former Mayor Judd Wilson, current Mayor Jason Miller, council members, and all who worked so hard to bring this project to reality,” said Skagit County Commissioner Sharon Dillon, who works for District 3.
Wilson pointed out earlier efforts by Congressman Rick Larsen, who visited Concrete on numerous occasions to discuss the existing fire hall and other projects in town before redistricting moved his efforts away from Concrete. “If it wasn’t for Larsen handing it off to Pearson instead of letting it die, I don’t think we’d have gotten anywhere,” said Wilson.
The town will advertise for a contractor by the end of March, with construction planned to start in May, and completion by the end of November.