The city of Airway Heights is designing a new, $9.3 million public safety campus intended to serve its growing community better and to improve functionality and accessibility of the police and fire departments and City Hall, says Airway Heights city manager Albert Tripp.
Current public service facilities have outgrown the spaces those departments currently occupy, so last month, the city purchased a 39,000-square-foot industrial warehouse building, at 1149 S. Garfield Road, for $4.1 million, Tripp says.
About $4.5 million worth of improvements are being planned to remodel the existing facility, the first phase of which will be funded through a portion of an $8 million voter-approved bond and a $1.3 million grant, says Tripp.
After those improvements are completed, city leaders will turn their focus to build out the spaces for the police department and municipal court services at the new building.
“The intent is to secure additional grant funding to move law enforcement to that space in 2025,” Tripp says. “The City Council has that on its legislative agenda with the intent on getting some match money to move that (department).”
Mitch Metzger, chief of the Airway Heights Fire Department, says Coeur d’Alene-based Architects West Inc. is designing the project. A general contractor will be selected in the spring.
“We’re hoping to start construction in May and have it be completed in the first quarter of 2025,” says Metzger.
He adds, “I’ve been the chief here for over 12 years, and I’ve been trying to get a new station since I got here.”
The newly acquired building along Garfield Road was constructed in 2019 and originally was designed as a three-suite office and warehouse facility that’s remained mostly vacant, Metzger says.
A new fire station will occupy 16,000 square feet of space at the south end of the building; the police department will absorb one-third of the facility; and City Hall, courts, and administrative services will absorb the remaining third of the space, Tripp says.
Firefighting services are currently housed about a mile east of the Garfield Road building, at 1208 S. Lundstrom.
During Metzger’s tenure as fire chief, he says the population of Airway Heights has doubled, and call volumes have increased over 170%, reaching 3,000 calls a year.
The fire department has eight service vehicles, including two engines and a ladder truck. The department has four full-time firefighters, four chief officers, and about 30 volunteers, Metzger says.
“Our ladder truck is 20-something years old and needs to be replaced,” Metzger says. “With some of the buildings that we have in town, we need a taller ladder truck, but anything bigger than what we have right now won’t fit in the fire station. Once we have this new facility, then we can actually get something that will serve the community better.”
The current fire station has been remodeled 10 times and still lacks adequate decontamination facilities, fully functioning heating and ventilation, and room for equipment, Metzger says.
He says the new fire station will have space for needed amenities, plus individual sleeping quarters and a training room.
The added space will “improve the working conditions and the safety of our firefighters,” he says.
Including the fire department, about 80 people will work at the Garfield property once redevelopment is completed, says Tripp.
Acquiring the Garfield property has saved the city both time and money it would take to develop a new public safety campus, and the location also will improve response times for the fire department.
“It’s still in the center of the city, so we can maintain our response times,” says Metzger.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security first suggested the need for a new public safety campus in a report to city leaders in Airway Heights, which prompted master planning discussions to determine how to serve the community for the next 40 years, he says.
“The (report) concluded that we were significantly in need of investment in order to ensure the continuity of services,” Tripp says. “It was certainly a big need to develop a facility that could accommodate all of those services.”
He says current city-owned properties are listed for sale, including the 1,700-square-foot Building and Planning department facility, located near the northwest corner of Ziegler Street and U.S. 2, and the current 4,800-square-foot fire station, at 1208 S. Lundstrom.
The city’s 8,700-square-foot municipal court building, located across the street from the current fire station, will become a child care facility, adds Tripp.
“When employers come in, one of the key questions they ask is, where can employees take their kids for child care. Right now, the options are very limited,” says Tripp. “We were able to identify a strategic partner that plans to come in and … renovate that space and update it and then turn it into a child care facility capable of providing child care services at no cost … for a 10 year period.”
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