By JAMES EIK
Airway Heights is in the formative stages to begin replacing some of its government buildings, some of which have been in operation for over 50 years, since the city's incorporation.
To start the process, the city is accepting statements of qualifications for a multi-use building somewhere within city limits. The building would serve to unite several city operations including City Hall and the fire, police, municipal courts, parks and recreation and the building/planning departments.
“This is an opportunity to upgrade our facilities,” Fire Chief Mitch Metzger said.
Metzger is serving as the project lead for the moment, after proposing it to the City Council earlier in May of this year. The biggest issue facing the city, he said, is simply the amount of space.
Airway Heights' Fire Department doesn't have bunks for prospective volunteer firefighters seeking to join as resident volunteers, doors often open to hit vehicles and lights on the fire trucks can easily be knocked off if they hit the garage roof. The department even needed to build a wall in the station, just to bring it up to code.
Likewise, parks and recreation department isn't able to host concurrent programs and running between the Building Department's location and City Hall can be inefficient for some members of the public seeking to pay permit fees or conduct other business with the city.
The best solution, based on some consultation, was shown to be creating a new structure instead of remodeling five separate buildings. Just to update lighting in each current building, changing to more energy efficient sources, it would run around $20,000.
“We'd get more bang for our dollar by building something new,” Metzger said.
Discussions of funding for the project, at this point, haven't entered into the conversation. The city will receive qualification statements from architectural firms until Sept. 27, and then meet with them throughout next year. Once a plan is developed, it will be presented to the public through a series of events and forums.
Architects, Metzger said, will be able to provide a general idea of how large the multi-use facility would be. From there, the city could look at public land it currently owns, or conduct the proper procedures to purchase a new location.
“Until we know what the footprint is, we're not sure where it will be,” he said.
Metzger thinks the end of 2013 or the start of 2014 could see some tangible results to proceed to that point, knowing the approximate size of the building.
“Once a conceptual price is in place, then we'll be able to sit down with the public,” he said.
Even if the best case scenario went through, a facility wouldn't see construction until 2015 or 2016. Decisions on the fate of current buildings would be place in the hands of the City Council.
Metzger, aside from providing his services as fire chief, has previous experience as a general contractor on the west side of the state, particularly with Boeing.
On the part of the Fire Department, Metzger said a new location along Highway 2 would be beneficial for responding to calls. He also suggested that the building could become something of a community hub by having separate spaces for a coffee shop or copy company, encouraging residents and others to use the building on a regular basis.
In the end, Metzger's goal for the project is to provide better service across the board for residents.
“We want a building that will give a good return to the citizens of Airway Heights,” he said.
James Eik can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.