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New Sunnyside fire station likely

It's so far, so good, for the Sunnyside Fire Department as local voters are narrowly giving thumbs up to a $5.3 million bond for a new fire station.

In the latest returns as of last night, Tuesday's vote saw 62 percent approving the bond (586 yes) to 38 percent against (358 no). The city needs a supermajority of 60 percent in order for the bond measure to pass.

"We're pretty excited about the response with passing a supermajority," Sunnyside Fire Chief Aaron Markham told the Daily Sun News this morning. "We're going to of course wait until the election is certified on April 27 before we get too excited. We're optimistic but don't want to be caught off guard."

Kathy Fisher is Yakima County elections manager and she says there are still 120 ballots to be counted for the Sunnyside bond vote. She estimates the city needs about half of the remaining ballots to be in favor of the measure to assure the 60 percent supermajority.

Fisher says voter turnout for the Sunnyside bond measure was 27 percent.

If the tally holds above 60 percent, Markham said moving dirt on constructing a new fire hall could start as early as this fall.

"There's quite a bit of work that needs to be done before construction," he said, noting part of that work includes demolishing a vacant office building on property near the current fire station. That land will be needed for the project, pending the final vote tally, as it will more than double the size of the current station.

Markham says $4.3 million of the bond would, if approved, be designated for fire hall construction with the remainder used to purchase a ladder truck.

The need for a ladder truck was highlighted last May when a blaze destroyed two downtown restaurants. Since then, students and staff at Sunnyside High School have started using a new, two-story addition to the school.

If the supermajority holds, amenities for the new fire station would include:

- Individual dorm rooms for on-duty personnel instead of sharing one room. "Hopefully that will cut down on sick leave," Markham says. "Our history is that as one person comes down with a flu it isn't long before everyone on that shift has the same symptoms." He notes the upgrade would improve ventilation and privacy for each shift.

- Better designated areas for decontamination, work stations, separate bathrooms for men and women and earthquake support.

- More room for equipment storage.

- Moving the main entrance from Eighth Street to Franklin Avenue to steer the public away from fire vehicles entering and exiting the station.

- Off-street parking would be provided and the entrance area inside would include a training area that could also be used as a meeting room for up to 50 people.

If the final vote count reduces the bond outcome to less than 60 percent approval, Markham said the city would likely resubmit it to voters for consideration in 2013.

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