By Ed Runyan
Although the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Agency has awarded Bazetta Township a $3.2 million low-interest loan to construct a new fire station, two of the township’s three trustees plan to refuse it.
Trustees Paul Hovis and Frank Parke say they want to build a new fire station later, after saving up some money.
“With all the tax cuts, we’re going to put it on hold,” Hovis said. The trustees will meet with township fire officials in the coming weeks to talk about options, Hovis said.
Parke said he would like the township to save money for five to 10 years and look at building a new fire station after that. He and Hovis both stressed that the loan would be for 30 years, and that is too long to commit the township to a loan.
Parke said he believes the terms of the USDA loan are only marginally better than what the township could get from local lenders.
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown announced the loan in a news release last week, saying it would “help ensure that Bazetta Township is a safe place to live, while improving working conditions for the town’s first responders.”
When told the township is likely to refuse the loan, Brown press secretary Allison Preiss said the Bazetta announcement was one of four across Ohio that Brown’s office received late last week from the USDA.
“Whether they decide to use it, it’s up to the township and the USDA,” Preiss said.
The township has taken cuts in its share of Local Government funding from the state in recent years and is likely to receive more reductions in the future, Parke said.
His concern, Parke said, is that if trustees take out a loan and spend millions on a fire station, the voters might reject future renewal levies, which would affect the township’s ability to maintain the services they have.
Bazetta Township is fortunate to be one of the few townships in the area asking only for renewal levies at this time, but that could change if the township builds a new building, Hovis noted.
Township officials have talked about building a new fire station in the center of the township to replace the two fire stations on either side.
One is on Everett Hull Road on near the county fairgrounds on the west side of the township, and the other is on McCleary Jacoby Road on the east side of the township.
For several years, the township has moved its fire personnel about six months at a time between the two stations, but officials believe they need to come up with a better solution.
Trustee Don Urchek disagrees with Hovis and Parke, saying the township should use part of the loan, which has an interest rate of 3.25 percent, and should build a new fire station on land at the east side of the Mosquito Lake dam at state Route 305 and Warren-Meadville Road.
The township has an option to buy the land that will remain valid for about two months, Urchek said.
Urchek said he believes the cost would be manageable, and the loan — around $2 million of the $3.2 million offered — could be paid back in about 10 years.
Officials also hoped that money would be available to build a facility that would house the fire, police, road department and township administration.
But right now, neither the police department or road department can afford its portion of the cost, and the township administration is OK in its present location, Hovis said.
Hovis said he thinks it’s possible the fire department can be placed in a centralized location for less than $1 million.