High Point — a privately owned location on 13th Street and North Marion — is the leading contender for a new firehouse in Gearhart. Members of the city’s firehouse committee met May 14 consider the location the most likely choice, although Mayor Matt Brown emphasized the need to “keep an open mind through the process.”
“Things can change even though the public comment period is closed,” Brown said. “I think it’s very important that we take the due diligence seriously. We need to follow the public’s lead.”
Negotiations to acquire the land are in process, with the city is reaching out to private donors to support the project. A geotechnical study and final cost estimates will take place before any bond measure is put forth, both of which will require city resources. The council will have to vote to allow funds for a geotechnical study and the request will be on the agenda for the June 5 council meeting.
If the council makes a decision to move forward at the High Point location, City Administrator Chad Sweet said, the city would need to meet an Aug. 17 deadline to put a bond measure on the ballot for November.
The High Point location, selected after a multiyear process and evaluation of sites throughout the community, is considered safe from 95% of tsunami events at 50 feet in elevation.
Of the 423 register voters who responded to a citywide survey, 52% support the High Point site, compared with 31% supporting the Pacific Way site and 17% supporting a firehouse and resiliency station at Gearhart Park.
A station at High Point could potentially be one of the highest and safest evacuation and gathering locations, Brown said. “It’s already in a place where we’d recommend people to evacuate and assemble, and if there happens to be a station there that’s a pretty big plus.”
The latest plan calls for an 11,000- to 13,000-square-foot building, possibly double level because of site geology. There are no plans to include a new city hall, administrative offices or council chambers.
“The goal would be to get that bond down to as low as possible,” Brown said.
Current cost estimates are sitting between $6 million and $9 million dollars, including land acquisition, but the final cost estimates will be conducted once a design is completed.
Estimates are based on the size of the building and the type of construction, Sweet said, and factor in the estimated project start date since prices go up with time and fluctuate with the market.
A final design won’t be feasible without a significant city investment.
“Planning for this type of building could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars,” said Sweet.
Some residents have indicated they want to donate or indicate they know someone who will donate,” Brown added.
The city is also looking into what types of funds might be available to fund the project, including federal and state grants.