Spokane Valley Fire officials have been thinking about buying new. But a tempting fixer-upper opportunity may change those plans.
The fire department has been planning to construct a new administration building adjacent to the current Station 8 at 2110 N. Wilbur next year. However, fire commissioners learned Monday that there is a chance the department could get a more-than-large-enough facility for free -- and 8.8 acres of land to boot.
As part of the federal Base Realignment and Closure process – BRAC for short – the Walker Army Reserve Center, 3830 N. Sullivan Road, will be closed in the next two months as operations there will be moved to Fairchild Air Force base. The Joe E. Mann center at 4415 N. Market is also closing as part of the process, which was first announced in 2006.
That leaves a pair of vacant buildings, both of which are aging but have been well-maintained over the years. While Spokane School District 81 has designs on the Mann building, it’s possible the government would “gift” the Walker building to the fire department as a grant through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Don Cress, who has been investigating the possibility for Valley Fire, said, however, the process is a long one and it could take a couple of years before the department could move in – and that’s assuming there are no other public agencies also looking at the property.
“I have no idea if anyone else is interested,” Cress said.
In the case of the Mann site, there has been some contention from different factions who have been interested in the property. However, the school district last month got the blessing of the Spokane Valley City Council to pursue the land for possible development of a new high school for the Hillyard area. City officials had previously hoped some of the property could be used for private development, but the sluggish economy lessens the likelihood of that happening anytime soon.
In 2008, the Hillyard Neighborhood Council was also bidding heavily for the land for competing purposes, but that group is now working with District 81.
While there would be plenty of advantages – mainly, it could save $3 million in construction costs and there would be plenty of room for expansion at a central Valley location – there are downsides as well. The structure is out of compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, has asbestos issues that need to be dealt with and would prolong the administration’s hope to move out of its current location at 10319 E. Sprague.
The fire commissioners agreed they should at least take a tour at the building, which also has ample meeting spaces, wall lockers, between 25 and 30 office spaces, and a motor pool area.
“I think it’s worth pursuing, for sure,” Commissioner Kolby Hanson said. “It’s worth taking a look at.”