The South Lane County Fire & Rescue building, far right, might replace the Creswell Community Center on the corner of 1st Street and C Street. Staff photo


CRESWELL - A new Creswell fire station is the top priority for South Lane County Fire & Rescue, said Chief John Wooten, who is scheduled to present the plan to city council at Monday's work session.
Station 203 is sandwiched between the City Hall and the Community Center on South 1st Street. It is the same building the former Creswell Rural Fire Protection District operated before the 2003 merger with SLCF&R.
SLCF&R covers a 132-square-mile area encompassing the cities of Creswell and Cottage Grove, with EMS serving more than 800 square miles. In 2019, it handled in excess of 4,400 service calls, Wooten said.
The new station would be built at the current location of the city-owned community center, effectively swapping ownership of the two parcels between the City and the fire district, City Manager Michelle Amberg said. It would be the tallest building downtown.
Creswell's need for a new station has been a topic since the merger of Creswell Fire and SLC&R more than a decade ago. Wooten said insufficient capital throughout the years have delayed the idea.
”It's a promise that (SLCF&R) made long ago that we are getting closer to fulfilling,” he said.
A committee advisory board in 2016 considered a few locations, including the community center and a Cuddeback family-owned property. Ultimately and logistically, the committee decided on the community center location.
The new fire station would mean the community center would be demolished, Amberg said, and there is no plan for a replacement community center.
”The Community Center was built in 1980 and is past its useful life,” she said, noting that the Cobalt Center could assume that role, as well as the Creswell Grange, Creswell VFW Hall, Creswell Library, Creswell High School. The Old Schoolhouse could become more robust meeting places in the Community Center's absence, she said.
The new station would be listed as a bond measure. The idea is to get the 2016 apparatus bond paid off in '21, and renew it for the facility at the same cost at 30 cents per 1,000. The vote also includes updates to the Cottage Grove station.
”Pretty much every (fire district) bonds out its facilities and apparatuses now,” Wooten said. ”The big capital projects are beyond the scope of the agency to pay and perform.”
The issues with the station have mounted, ranging from size needs to safety issues to staff accommodation and costs. The District has outgrown the space, Wooten said
Station 203 is approximately 7,000 square feet and only one fire engine can fit into the bays in the building, he said. The station houses an engine, water tender, two medic units, a brush engine and a utility vehicle.
”We are maxed out for space,” Wooten said. ”Adding additional staffing is not possible in the current situation and we would have to have more square footage,” he said. The current station has two full-time residents and up to two resident students. The new station would house six door rooms and is proposed at 17,000 square feet.
The current station has failed a seismic study and the building would likely fall if and when an earthquake strikes, Wooten said. The new station would be able to stand alone with its own generators and fuel, and could serve as an emergency operation center in such an event.
”It honestly needs to happen; SLCF&R can't grow its services in Creswell without putting a new facility in,” Wooten said.
Further, Wooten said that construction costs are going up 5% to 8% a year, and it would be ”around $12.5 million if we broke ground today,” he said. ”The longer we wait, the more the cost goes up.”
The new station would have 10% renewable energy, solar panels and technology that would lessen heating and cooling costs. ”It won't be totally green certified but it will meet or exceed the renewable energy requirement and Oregon building codes,” Wooten said.
”We can all benefit from keeping SLCF&R in the area, close to the footprint as it can be,” Amberg said.
The meeting begins at 6 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 24 in McCluskey Chambers in City Hall. The meeting is open, and the public is encouraged to attend.