It’s official—following Tuesday’s election results, a new 14,500-square-foot fire station will break ground in Ketchum in May, with construction wrapping up the following summer.
The station will likely be built on the Saddle Road “park and ride” lot just north of the YMCA, but the city still has wiggle room to select a new location.
Right now, though, city officials say the site is more than ideal, with easy access to large city arteries like state Highway 75 and Warm Springs Road.
The $11.5 million station is on track to replace the current fire station in City Hall by 2021. The city is planning on issuing a bid request to contractors, according to Assistant City Administrator Lisa Enourato, and once building design is completed it will move to the City Council and then the Planning and Zoning Commission for permitting.
“I’m delighted by the support we’ve had from the community, but now the work really begins,” Mayor Neil Bradshaw said in a Wednesday interview. “We’ve got a lot to do to break ground in the spring. Until then, we will be focused on spending the community’s money wisely, prudently and in the best interest of everyone’s safety.”
The Blaine County Elections Office vote count showed that the bond measure barely passed with a 67.34 percent approval rate, a hair above the two-thirds margin (66.66 percent) it needed to pass. (697 voted in favor; 338 voted against.)
That means if eight more voters checked “no” on the ballot, the city would likely have needed to move the Fire Department to a temporary facility until financing became available.
One group in town, Community Safety First—the band of Ketchum residents responsible for the “Back the Bond” billboards across Ketchum—celebrated victory after poll numbers came in.
“We are thrilled with the support,” Community Safety First Co-Chairman Jim Plomasen said. “It is obvious that Ketchum residents were aware of the need and were willing to commit hard-earned tax dollars to make sure that a new fire station is built as soon as possible.”
Another member of the group, Ketchum resident Bob Crosby, agreed.
“The city has purchased a new fire truck and hired a new fire chief. Now, with the new station, Ketchum residents and tourists will be better protected for both fire and ambulance service,” he said.
Ketchum’s current East Avenue fire station has failed safety inspections for almost 20 years. More than a decade ago, it was found unable to withstand damage from an earthquake—and, ironically, a fire—and efforts to address asbestos and toxic-fume buildup have been underway since 2001.
Several firefighters have seconded those observations, noting that there are cracks in the walls, abandoned staircases, diesel fuel condensation on the walls and soot in the landing bay.
But by 2021, Ketchum’s first responders will be able to move into a new home.
According to blueprints from Cole Architects, the new facility will include four large drive-through bays to accommodate the wider turns of ladder trucks and expanded sleeping quarters.