Grant will save taxpayers 15% in costs if voters approve bond proposition
(Airway Heights, WA) – The city will receive $1.3 million in grant money from the State Legislature to help pay for the purchase and renovation of the building at 1149 South Garfield. The property is scheduled to be the home of a new fire station and other city services. The city signed an agreement to purchase the building earlier this year, and the grant will save 15 percent in project costs.
The city, however, cannot accept the grant if the bond is not approved. The grant helps purchase the property and the bond is necessary to fund renovations to convert the building to a new fire station.
“It’s like matching funds,” City Manager Albert Tripp said. “We don’t get one without the other. It would be a shame to reject $1.3 million from the state for the city of Airway Heights if we can’t pass the bond. Grants this size are hard to come by.”
The city is asking voters to consider two propositions on the August 1, 2023, primary election ballot to support the library and fire department. The first ballot measure asks voters to approve a bond to renovate a building on South Garfield Avenue to include a fire station and city services. The current facility built in 1968 has been renovated 10 times and is no longer capable of serving the community or its firefighters.
Firefighters are working with no heat and air conditioning in most areas. The station also lacks adequate decontamination areas (such as showers and laundries) for firefighters returning from fire and medical calls. Decontamination areas are necessary to wash carcinogens and medical waste from firefighters and their protective gear. In addition, the bays are too small to house modern apparatus, such as a ladder truck that is needed to respond to fires in multistory buildings.
The second ballot measure asks voters to annex to the Spokane Library District to keep the city’s library open. The city currently pays the Spokane County Library District $0.34 of its $1.43 per $1,000 general property tax levy or 24 percent of property taxes for library services. If voters approve annexation, property owners would pay the library directly for its services.
This would allow the city to retain that revenue to maintain funding for four full-time firefighters to respond to higher call volumes. Emergency call volumes have increased by 172 percent in the last 10 years. The city requires funding to maintain four full-time firefighter positions to respond to calls.
The city funds all its services, including library, police, and fire suppression, with a general property tax levy of $1.43 per $1,000 of assessed property value. The demand for all city services exceeds the amount collected by the general property tax and is not sustainable.
The city has staggered these requests to reduce impacts to taxpayers. The bond (projected at $0.37 per $1,000) would take effect in 2024 and cost the owner of a $300,000 home $111 per year or $9.25 per month. The library annexation would take effect in 2025 and cost $0.34 per $1,000 or $102 per year or $8.50 per month for the same homeowner.
If the bond is successful, the city could be eligible for additional grant money through other programs.
The city will also list one of its existing buildings for sale if the bond measure passes to help fund the renovations and pay off the bond earlier to save taxpayers money.
The City of Airway Heights, Wash. (pop. 10,562) was named after its location between Fairchild Air Force Base and the Spokane International Airport in Spokane County. Airway Heights is a full-service city with its own police, fire department, and municipal court system. The City’s vision is to maintain its small town feel where neighbors are friendly, welcoming, and willing to help each other. Airway Heights operates under a balanced budget and has passed all its independent audits by the state. More information on Airway Heights can be found at www.cawh.org.