Proposed $14.5M resiliency center leaves some Gearhart residents opposed

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – The City of Gearhart is proposing a multi-million dollar emergency resiliency center to replace their current firehouse, but not all residents are for it.

The proposed $14.5 million center would house the fire and police departments and be able to withstand tsunamis, but some residents say between inflation costs and the location, they’re not ready to front the bill.

The quiet coastal community of Gearhart says it’s time to bring their emergency response into the 21st century. 

"Our city has been on a long journey to find the right location for our fire station," said Paulina Cockrum, Mayor of Gearhart. "It’s been long-known that our cinder block building downtown was built in 1958. It’s inadequate for today’s needs."

The current firehouse, located in the heart of the city, was originally built for minimal emergency calls. Equipped with one toilet and no changing areas, showers or decontamination areas, the city wants a fully-equipped facility that can not only house the fire department but also the police. With growing concerns about a future large earthquake or subsequent tsunamis, they say they also want something resilient.

"What we know now about the Cascadia subduction zone earthquake that is potentially in our future and Gearhart would certainly be affected by something like that. It has moved us to want to put a fire station on higher ground," said Cockrum. "This is kind of the next natural infrastructure that just has to be done."

The proposed site near Highlands Lane and Hwy 101, just north of the city’s urban growth boundary, would put the center at an elevation of 65 feet from its current 27 feet, safe from potential tsunami devastation. However, some residents disagree with the proposed site, worrying the further away it’s placed, the longer the response times for volunteer firefighters to go equip themselves and get to a scene.

"The Gearhart community needs to have the fire station in its heart, where it has been the last 60 years," said Mitchell Cogen, a Gearhart resident. "We believe we should update and upgrade the fire station but where things have gotten to now, is really an almost indignant demand to create and build a fire station miles from the center of town that would be the most expensive fire station in the country on a per square foot and per resident basis."

The city says with added sleeping quarters, it could actually improve times. Others worry about the costs — proposed at $14.5 million. The city says a tax increase would be marginal — about $250 for a $200,000 home, but residents tell KOIN 6 News they’re worried it could cost well beyond the current estimates.

"We’ve got increased inflation, we’ve got supply shortages," said Jack Zimmerman, a Gearhart resident. "We don’t know how that’s going to impact the construction costs."

As for the plot of land, the city has agreed to a land swap with the developer who currently owns it, which the city says would save around $3 million in purchase costs.

Gearhart residents will vote on Measure 4-213 on Tuesday.

Source: KOIN.com

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