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Residents offer opinions on concepts for new Lebanon fire station

During a meeting held in the apparatus bay at Lebanon Fire District’s headquarters, residents were invited to vote on design ideas for a possible new fire station Oct. 2.

Architects at Mackenzie, a multi-faceted design firm based out of Portland, have developed a conceptual design providing for staff needs, and the next step was to ask the community for input on what they would want their new fire station to look like.

Photos of current buildings in Lebanon were on display, including historic downtown buildings as well as the more modern school, library and veteran’s home buildings. Three additional boards showed several public buildings outside of Lebanon with varying architectural styles.

Those in attendance placed green stickers on designs they liked, and orange stickers on those they most disliked. Then architects Cathy Bowman and Jeff Humphreys asked the audience why they specifically liked and disliked certain styles.

From that conversation, they saw a pattern of interest in a combination of masonry and wood, with a style that would blend with existing buildings in the city. The audience seemed to dislike flat roofs and super sleek, modern looks, Fire Chief Gordon Sletmoe noted.

Mackenzie will spend the next couple months designing a style based on that meeting, and figuring out the total cost for a new building.

The community meeting was part of a 15-step plan initiated by Sletmoe, who, after extensive research, decided Lebanon is due for an updated station. District Board members agreed with the plan in January.

After the fire station’s current facility on Oak Street was built in 1975, a number of big earthquakes in California resulted in a change of building standards, Sletmoe said.

“I hesitate to say it, but it’s true; We don’t meet fire code in this fire station,” Sletmoe said.

The LFD applied for and won a $1.5 million grant for seismic retrofitting from the state of Oregon almost two years ago, but later learned the rules attached to the grant were too limiting.

Using the money meant they would be required to remain in the current facility for another 12 years, plus they would still need an additional $500,000 to complete the fix, Sletmoe said. That would put the facility well past the 40- to 50-year life expectancy of fire stations.

So Sletmoe researched other options, including renovation, expansion and relocation, and came to the decision that the best option was to return the grant and instead work on a 15-step plan to build a new facility at the current location.

When a design is approved and cost is figured, taxpayers will be asked to vote for a bond to pay for the new facility. The bond will likely include cost for new trucks, too, Sletmoe said.

The current bond for the other station will be paid off in two years, he said. Taxpayers in the Lebanon fire district are paying 20 cents per $1,000 for that bond. So property tax for a $200,000 house is costing the owners $40 a year on that bond.

Sletmoe guesstimates the bond for a new facility will be slightly higher than that cost, and would be on a ballot within the next few years.

Lebanon Fire Station Cost Pointers

  • To accept the state seismic retrofitting grant and only update the walls to current earthquake standards, LFD would need to raise an extra $500,000.
  • According to Fire Chief Gordon Sletmoe, to additionally remodel the existing facility to “shoe horn” in current staff and future growth, they would need another $6 million or more.
  • 2018 cost estimates for a complete renovation and expansion of the current facility was expected to cost $11 million, whereas a brand new building that would be safer for staff and provide more space may cost a little more than that.