Fire hall gets grant: Federal stimulus funds move start date to June

March, 2010 Posted in News

By Mary OwenThis is an architect’s rendering of the new Gates Fire Hall now scheduled for June construction.

A federal grant has lit a fire under the Gates Fire Hall project, upping its start date to June.

“I’m excited to have this boost in our capital fundraising campaign,” said Fire Chief Gary Swanson with the Gates Rural Fire Protection District. “Even though the grant doesn’t put us ‘over the top’ for the amount we need to finish the project, it nevertheless puts us in a position to start building our facility.”

The district, one of 77 in the state to apply, received news Feb. 4 from the Department of Homeland Security of the $1,582,821 grant from the federal government’s 2010 stimulus package. The funds, added to three years of fundraising efforts headed by the Gates Fire District Emergency Services Support, bring the district $1.9 million closer to the project’s $2.7 million price tag.

“Fundraising efforts will continue through the initial stages of construction,” said Swanson. “Thanks to volunteers who worked to see the project was shovel-ready so that we were eligible for the grant, we are now in a position to begin the bidding process within 60 days.”

In 2007, the district purchased from Marion County the 1.79-acre wooded lot on East Sorbin Street, at the northwest end of the Gates Bridge, in anticipation of building a new fire hall.

“The fire department has outgrown its present facility,” said Swanson of the existing building, a portion of a city-owned complex leased by the district. Once vacated, Swanson expects the space to be used for expansion of city operations.

“They have a definite need for more space,” he said.

The fire district’s own need for space centers on physical restrictions of its current location: failure to meet earthquake codes, lack of American Disabilities Act access, apparatus bays not designed to house larger emergency vehicles, lack of a much-needed meeting room and storage units and public and responder accessibility safety issues. City officials agree a new fire hall is a “must” for firefighters to continue to provide quick and efficient emergency response services.

Additionally, the new 7,900-square-foot facility will be owned by the district, allowing for future expansion as the community grows, Swanson said.

Swanson said from the beginning Gates residents shared the vision for the project and were committed to working for its success. People had a real “let me know how I can help” attitude, he said.

“The volunteers in the community have carried the banner and been the tools to get the work done,” Swanson added. “What more could we ask for!”

Mayor Mike Higgs publicly commended the partnering of the city council and the fire district for embracing a facility “the community can be proud of.”

“As a business owner, it gives me peace of mind knowing that in case of an emergency, these volunteers will respond with one goal in mind: to save lives and property to the best of their ability,” Lee Reynolds, owner of Frontier Country Restaurant, shared on the fire district’s Web site.

Swanson believes the project has made Gates a stronger, more viable community.

“The enthusiasm for our project and the work has been contagious outside our community also,” he added.

“Various people who don’t live here and have limited or no interest in our community have stepped forward and made contributions to help us be successful.”

To date, the district is one of three recipients of the DHS’ Assistance to Firefighters Fire Station Construction Grants. The grants provide funds to build new or modify existing fire stations to enhance response capabilities and better protect the community from fire and fire-related hazards.

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