A new fire station could be in Sunnyside's future as the city council on Tuesday approved pursuing a $1 million state community development block grant next year.
The proposed station would replace Sunnyside's existing 41-year-old fire hall at 513 S. Eighth Street.
The existing building was constructed to serve a community of 6,500 people, noted the fire department's draft grant proposal. Today the same station houses a department serving nearly 15,000 residents.
Sunnyside Fire Chief Aaron Markham said the city is getting the design process underway for a new building, which he indicated would cost approximately $1.5 million.
Markham said a fund will be established for the $500,000 that would be needed to construct the hall, if the community development grant is received.
The most likely spot for the proposed station will be the site of the existing one. "Our response time is good from that location and it keeps the fire hall downtown," Markham said.
Also under consideration as sites for the new station are nearby lots owned by the city. Another option is purchasing property on the corner of Eighth Street and Franklin Avenue. Whichever of the downtown options are pursued, it will mean demolishing the existing station to make way for the new.
Problems with the current facility include the fact city fire engines have to pull out into the street in order to be moved. A possibility eyed for the proposed station would be a drive-through bay to eliminate the use of public right-of-way for exiting the station.
Another difficulty noted in the grant application is that the clearance of the Sunnyside Fire Station is too low for the department's next rig under consideration - a ladder truck.
Other needed improvements, according to the draft grant proposal, include an updated dormitory for the department, which runs crews 24 hours a day. "It's tight in there now and if one person comes down sick they all do," Markham said. Currently, office cubicle dividers are used to separate crew sleeping quarters.
Lack of ventilation and vehicle clearance to meet legal requirements were also cited as difficulties with the existing station.
If grant funding is approved - council okayed submitting the grant application two years in a row if needed to help its chances - completion of the fire hall would be about two years away, Markham estimated.
Markham said he will meet next week with a project engineer to discuss a possible timetable for demolition and construction.
If grant funding is received from the state, the new station proposal will eventually return to city council for final design approval.