Public safety building moving from dream to reality

By Jason Miller
posted 5.17.12

After years of waiting for the right stars to align, an idea to build a new public safety building in Concrete has begun to grow legs.

“This project has been on my mind since 2003, before I was even on the council,” said Concrete Mayor Judd Wilson of the effort, which carries a price tag of an estimated $1.65 million.

Wilson and other town officials met April 20 with Congressman Rick Larsen’s aide Adam LeMieux, County Commissioner Sharon Dillon, and Town Engineer Cody Hart of Reichhardt & Ebe. The focus of the meeting was funding. Larsen has stated previously that he fully supports the project and will work to get the funding needed to complete it. Wilson said Larsen’s office “will put their thumb on FEMA for us.” FEMA’s regional manager plans to visit Concrete in August to tour the existing building and make a funding decision.

“That will be a big decision on his part at that time—whether he’s going to fund it or not,” said Wilson. But there shouldn’t be any reason why FEMA wouldn’t fund this project.”

Still, with the chance—however slight—that FEMA might decide not to fund the building, Wilson sought out a grant-writing “ringer” and requested a proposal from her. At its April 23 regular meeting, the Concrete Town Council reviewed a professional services agreement from Michelle Mazzola of Leavenworth-based Resource Solutions and voted to contract with her to write a grant for the project if the language in her contract is approved by the Association of Washington Cities’ legal advisory team.

Mazzola has a 95 percent grant writing success rate and is no stranger to big-ticket attempts. Her resume includes stories of grants captured by her work, including a $903,000 win for a new fire station in George, Wash. If her contract is accepted, Town of Concrete would pay Mazzola a not-to-exceed amount of $10,000.

Desperate times

The town’s current building, which houses fire engines and once accommodated the town’s police force, has fallen victim to age and geological realities. Simply put, it’s falling apart. The roof threatens to cave in with every significant snowfall—firefighters prop up the main beam with a 4×4 when they see the ceiling start to sag—and the steep hillside behind the building slopes down to the Baker River and erodes a little more every winter.

“You can see the structure is starting to separate from itself,” said Wilson. “One of these days, we’re not going to be able to get our fire trucks out of the building, because they’ll be in the Baker River.”

For that reason, Wilson will push for a hazard mitigation grant from FEMA, arguing that the building has become a dangerous structure. “Nobody’s tried to hazard a guess about how long the building will last,” said Wilson.

New beginning

Construction drawings for the new public safety building already have been developed. It would be located on Main St. at the current stockpile site between the Superior Building and the community garden, and would include two levels—the main level being a sort of daylit basement—with three drive-through bays for the fire engines. Wilson wants the building to include offices for an Upper Skagit emergency operations center, a Red Cross satellite office, a DNR or U.S. Forest Service office, and offices for the Sheriff’s Office East Detachment.

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