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Construction on Kittitas Valley Fire and Rescue's new main fire station on Mountain View Avenue is starting.

After a groundbreaking ceremony Monday, contractors began putting up security fencing and started surveying the building site on Tuesday. Crews with heavy equipment will begin site preparation likely early next week.

KVFR selected a $5.76 million bid April 21 for a 21,500-square-foot KVFR district main fire station. Firefighters likely will move in June 2016 from cramped space at the KVFR station and Ellensburg Police Department building in the 100 block of North Pearl Street.

"We believe moving in sometime next June is something doable, and it might happen a little earlier," KVFR Deputy Chief Rich Elliott said on Tuesday.

The new facility has been a long time coming, Elliott said, and seeing construction is the culmination of work by many in past years, including the voters in Ellensburg and in the former county Fire District 2.

KVFR District Commission Chairman Pat Clerf, a volunteer firefighter with KVFR for 25 years, said he heartily thanks the voters who passed a bond levy in April 2014 to raise the funds to build the new station on the former Mackner truck scales property.

The vote was 69 percent yes, and 31 percent no.

"There's been so many people who've supported us in this endeavor," Clerf said on Tuesday. "Everything seems to be in line now for the people to start to see the building going up, see what they approved."

Moving ahead

Ellensburg city and fire district 2 voters in 2007 approved a merger of the city with the district to provide emergency fire and medical services throughout the Kittitas Valley.

The city fire station on North Pearl Street became the main station for the new, KVFR department.

The new KVFR district that year entered into a 10-year lease with the city to continue to use the building for emergency fire and medical services.

"Right from the start we knew more space was needed, not only for (KVFR) but also the (city) police department. I don't know how they've managed with the room they have. They've been really wedged in there," Clerf said about EPD facilities.

KVFR was committed, Clerf said, to build a new station and move out of the old before the lease was up.

The estimated 10,000-square-foot building on Pearl Street has served its purpose to house both police and fire services, Elliott said, but the area's growth and the required equipment, personnel and training for both departments demands more space.

The south half of the building was completed in 1956; the north half, which includes the former council chambers, came much later.

Elliott, also an Ellensburg City Council member, said EPD is undertaking a study to determine the best use of the added space the police will have in the Pearl Street building when KVFR moves out. The study also will outline remodeling options.

A new facility

Elliott said a study of emergency calls indicated the Mackner scales site was a good location. It's closer to freeway and county highway access to outlying valley areas, reduces fire and ambulance crews from having to navigate through central city traffic, and is closer to areas where more than 40 percent of the calls originate.

The six-block area around the site has assisted living facilities, nursing homes, KVH Hospital and associated clinics.

KVFR has nine fire stations around the Kittitas Valley, including a Vantage Highway facility that’s a station and quarters for up to seven firefighters who stay there around the clock.

Wyman Renfrow, retired from city fire service from 1963 through 1987, said after he left the department as a captain, the department’s ambulance service grew as demands increased.

“They began to feel the pinch, I think, more after I left,” Renfrow said.

When the north addition to the Pearl Street facility came in about 1980, it doubled the vehicle and apparatus space.

Ed West, a 32-year veteran of city fire service, said he began work for the city the year after the department moved into the Pearl Street station from the old station west of the YMCA building off Water Street.

When he retired after serving 18 years as fire chief, the city saw the need for adding to the Pearl Street building’s north end, he said.

“It’s been more growth and demands put on (the department) ever since then,” said West, who added that new training requirements is a big factor in KVFR needing more space.

Both said they’d like to tour the new facility off Mountain View Avenue when it’s completed.

Kittitas County Sheriff Gene Dana said he and his staff have been working with KVFR in the new building’s planning stage to develop a multi-purpose space for training and for setting up the countywide emergency operations center. The center has swung into action during serious flooding and wildfire incidents.

Coming together

City Council members Jill Scheffer and Nancy Lillquist alerted KVFR about the Mackner property as the city undertook a federally funded study on brownfields, old sites contaminated with petroleum products that could be cleaned up and reused.

Scheffer later was contracted by the city, in her work position with the nonprofit land conservation group Forterra, to seek grants for a citywide plan to clean up contaminated sites within city limits, and funds for the clean-up of the Mackner site, specifically.

The cost of the clean-up of the Mackner site was taken out of the land’s sale price that was later negotiated to a little over $500,000.

Clerf said KVFR’s set-aside funds were used for the sale. Scheffer was successful in getting a grant for the citywide brownfield reclamation plan. It’s expected that most of the cleanup costs will be covered by another state grant, with funding pending in the Legislature, Scheffer said.

Most of the cleanup operation ended two weeks ago.

“Things came together at the right time with the help of many to make this all possible,” Scheffer said.

CORRECTION APPENDED: This article originally understated the total size of the new fire station. The plans call for a 21,500 square foot space.

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