Driven by the need to replace a crumbling fire station located in the tsunami inundation zone, the city of Gearhart ramped up its push for a new firehouse and resiliency station.
After years of study and work by the city’s volunteer fire committee, three sites went before the public at a town hall Tuesday night.
Gearhart Park, Highpoint Station and the current firehouse site at 670 Pacific Way were submitted as options for consideration.
“As human beings we can survive, we have areas that have high ground,” Mayor Matt Brown said. “We want to make sure we survive the most likely event.”
That event would be a medium to large tsunami, geologist Tom Horning explained, due approximately every 330 years. The last tsunami hit our region in 1700 — 319 years ago.
With an elevation of almost 65 feet, Highpoint Station offers the greatest height. But the land is not owned by the city, and construction costs of between $6 million and $9 million would need to be supplemented by costs of a land purchase, should the property’s owners choose to negotiate.
The current firehouse site stands at 25 feet at the building site, and would likely be inundated in a tsunami.
Development of the property could require added costs to replace fill, adding to a projected $6 million to $8 million cost at that location. Should that site be chosen, the department would need to find housing in a temporary location, possibly a pole barn, City Administrator Chad Sweet said. “This is definitely one of the more expensive places to do what we need to do.”
Gearhart Park Station, at the location of the Lesley Miller Dunes Meadow Park at the corner of Pacific Way and North Cottage.
The park offers 50 feet of elevation and the land could be acquired from the county at minimal cost. The property comes with stable, packed sand with minimum prep work required. Cost for a 13,000 square foot single level building on the site could be between $5 million and $7 million.
The cost on a bond for $1,000 of home value would be between be about $308 per year for a home valued at $400,000.
Transitioning a portion of the park — about 3/10 of an acre — for a public safety facility faced objections from the audience, some of whom urged the city to maintain the site as intended by Lesley Miller, who transferred the land to Gearhart in 1947 to be used as a municipal park.
Anita Barbey said she recognized the need to upgrade the station. “But she (Miller) wanted this site to be available to the public no matter where people lived, to come here and enjoy the ocean.”
Architect Stuart Emmons said a fire station in the park is a “waste of taxpayer money” and will only work for a limited portion of disaster scenarios.
“I believe that the Lesley Miller Dune Meadow Park is a key part of Gearhart and losing it would be a travesty,” Emmons said.
Brown concluded the meeting asking for input on each of the three sites, with questionnaires asking public to rank each location in preference. “These are not final designs that we showed you tonight,” he said. “These are just idea and concepts. They can or will be altered or changed. We want to know not just what you don’t like — but what you do like.”
The purpose of the process, Brown said, is to spending the next three months collecting public input. “I want everyone to tell me what location they like, which one they don’t like, and I want specific feedback how we can make any of these locations better or designs better.”