LaVenture Road station

Mount Vernon Fire Chief Bryan Brice discusses the potential dangers of contamination from exhaust in March 2019 at the LaVenture Road station.

MOUNT VERNON — The Mount Vernon City Council will consider borrowing $10 million to retrofit two of the city’s three fire stations.

Fire Chief Bryan Brice told the council Wednesday that the city has acknowledged since at least 2018 the need to add space, improve seismic stability and install better exhaust ventilation at the LaVenture Road and Division Street stations.

Voters rejected a bond measure in April 2019 that included funding for these upgrades, as well as a much larger reconstruction of the city’s downtown fire station.

Now, however, the council will consider borrowing without asking approval from the voters, because the city now has access to a funding source to pay for the loan.

Finance Director Doug Volesky said the city expects to receive about $900,000 annually from a federal program that pays ambulance providers for transporting Medicaid patients. This would more than cover the estimated $600,000 a year the city would need to pay for a 20-year loan.

Mayor Jill Boudreau said the council may take action on the proposed loan at its Jan. 13 meeting.

The city currently has no general purpose debt, and Volesky said $10 million would amount to about 10% of its limit. It’s unusual for a city not to carry debt, he said.

“That’s what it’s there for,” he said. “To pay for capital projects.”

If the council approves a loan, Brice said design could start in February. Construction could wrap up at the Division Street station in July 2022 and at the LaVenture Road station in April 2023.

During the meeting, council members spoke in favor of the loan, but several asked if it could be for a shorter term.

Council member Mark Hulst said with a new presidential administration on the way this federal funding is unstable. He said he would be more comfortable if these improvements could be paid for sooner rather than later.

Volesky said he would bring information on a shorter-term loan to the next council meeting.

— Reporter Brandon Stone: bstone@skagitpublishing.com, 360-416-2112, Twitter: @Brandon_SVH

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