By Ed Runyan
Mosquito Lake is one of Trumbull County’s greatest assets, but for Bazetta Township officials, it has created one of its most bedeviling dilemmas relating to fire and ambulance service.
The problem is that the lake splits most of the township in half. As a result, the township has had two fire stations in recent years — one in the northwest corner and one in the southeast area.
But when officials determined that the township didn’t have enough money to man both stations, they had to make a tough choice. They manned each station in an alternating fashion for six months at a time.
For the past nine months, however, the fire department has occupied the northwest station on Everett Hull Road next to the Trumbull County Fairgrounds and has no plans to switch back to the other station.
Trustee Don Urchek says reasons for choosing the northwest station are that it is larger and provides better sleeping quarters for the firefighters.
But neither station is centrally located, so response times for fire and ambulance calls average nearly six minutes and can be as long as eight minutes, said Fire Chief Dennis Lewis.
To improve the response time, township trustees recently purchase five acres in one of the most-central locations in the township — on Warren-Meadville Road just east of the state Route 305 dam. Cost was $150,000.
On that land the township will build a fire station sometime in the next four years — the specific time frame has not been determined.
When operational, the roughly 8,000-square-foot station will reduce response times to around 4 1/2 to 5 minutes, Lewis said. It also will provide equal coverage to both sides of the lake.
Urchek said the two current fire stations, which were both built in the early 1970s, were put in those locations because benefactors donated the land for them to the township.
Lewis points out that the northwest station is actually only about one mile each from Champion, Bristol and Mecca townships. It is about seven miles, roadwise, from some parts of Bazetta Township. The closed station is on McCleary Jacoby Road next to the police department.
Urchek said one of the biggest benefits of the new station will be to provide better fire and ambulance service for the Timber Creek neighborhood, the largest neighborhood in the township. It and a large condominium development are on the east side of Elm Road north of Walmart.
The new station is expected to cost about $1 million, half of which the fire department has been able to set aside in recent years. It is not determined yet whether the township will wait several years to save up the rest of the money or take out a loan, Lewis said.
If a loan is used, the project could move forward as early as this year. If the fire department has to save up the money ahead of time, it will be three to four years before the station is ready.
Lewis said the township has survived being on the edges of the township by having great cooperation among the Cortland, Champion and Howland fire departments. Each of those departments and the Bazetta Fire Department respond to one another’s fire calls, Lewis said.
“We kind of operate as one department,” Lewis said.
Bazetta handles all of its own ambulance calls, however, which make up 95 percent of its total call volume.
The new station will be smaller than the current station, which is 11,500 square feet, Lewis said. The McCleary Jacoby station is 5,500 square feet.
To reduce response times even further to homes and businesses on the east side of Elm Road — including the Walmart, Timber Creek and a dialysis clinic near Walmart — trustees have talked with the Norfolk-Southern Railroad in hopes of creating a private crossing of the tracks near the new fire station.
The crossing would be for emergency vehicles only and would only be used, on average, fewer than two times per day, Lewis said. Meetings with Norfolk-Southern are ongoing, Lewis said.
As for having just one fire station, Lewis notes that the township has 5,997 residents, which is few enough for just one station. Champion Township is somewhat typical in that it has 10,000 people and just one fire station, Lewis said.