For most firefighters, their coworkers are like extended family and their station a second home. As of December, the Sandy Fire District family should be moving into their highly anticipated new digs at 17460 Bruns Ave.
Some unexpected setbacks, namely challenging winter weather and minor permitting incidents, have extended the completion date by a few months, but Sandy Fire Chief Phil Schneider assures that the end goal is well worth the wait.
Four years in the making
Over the past four years, the district has been planning and plotting the construction of its new facility, finally breaking ground last October.
The original circa-1969 facility had been in need of repairs or replacement for quite some time, and the change in state regulations regarding seismic safety made renovating the building a high priority for the district.
The state wanted any new structure to not only protect workers and be able to withstand a sizable earthquake, but remain functional after such an event so the firefighters can continue to serve their community.
But district funding for such an endeavor was minimal, and would require the district to appeal to taxpayers for a new bond: something it hesitates to do.
Around the same time the district was deliberating on how to fund its project, it became aware of the Oregon Infrastructure Finance Authority's Seismic Rehabilitation grant. This is a state grant to aid organizations in seismic renovations.
The district eagerly applied, as one of the first few to request funds from this program, and a total of $1.2 million was awarded in March 2015.
The remaining $4.5 million to complete the project came from urban renewal funds, which the city provided and the district reserved for this project.
Because of a partnership outlined more than 20 years ago, 10 percent of urban renewal funds are designated for use by the fire district on "brick-and-mortar" projects, such as the rebuilding of a fire station.
"The wonderful partnership with the city and school district are so important." Schneider says, as the school district allowed for fire engines to be kept on school property during construction. "We won't have to go out and ask for any additional money — no additional bonds."
This project is fully funded and will not require the raising of taxes.
Full speed ahead
"This is such a complex project," Schneider remarks.
The original intent of the district was to build onto parts of the pre-existing structure. That idea was scrapped after the old building was found to be below standard.
Now, after almost a year of on-site construction, the new station is beginning to take shape. From here on out, Schneider anticipates that the process will speed up tremendously, with all of the smaller and more tedious components already in place.
"People drive by every day after work and they don't see the underground to this thing," he explains.
There are layers upon layers of concrete and rebar required to build the foundation of such a structure, and tons of steel to keep it erect and operational in the event of a natural disaster.
Many of the "milestones" already completed include the installation of trusses, roof sheathing, interior wall framing, trench drains and under-slab conduits for electrical systems — aspects not readily apparent to the average passerby
This week, more milestones are expected to be accomplished, including some that are more obvious.
"You're going to see quite a physical change," Schneider says.
He projects that the full apparatus bay that houses the district's fire engines will be completed, the roof will be added and the steel needed to form the skeleton of the building will be delivered.
Working within the parameters of its $5.4 million budget, the district has big dreams for its new home. By adding a second story to its apparatus bay, the district gains about 4,500 square feet in height right off the bat.
Since much of the firefighters' time is spent at the station or out on call, the district hopes to make its station a sort of one-stop shop. The second floor is mapped out to include 10 beds, bathrooms, a small agility gym for the workers to exercise in, a kitchen and a conference/training room, which will be available for community nonprofit organizations to use by reservation.
Since the old structure was deemed unusable, the building has been completely reworked and rebuilt to be 100 percent seismically secure and more eco-friendly than its predecessors, with LED lights and energy efficient windows.
"Nothing is untouched in the whole building," Schneider says. "It's going to be a nice facility all around."
Schneider projects that the new station should endure the next 50 years.
To celebrate, the district plans to host a formal public opening in January of the new year.
"We really want to bring the community (in)," Schneider says. "We want to show them what we've done."