Lack of money is the key roadblock in a plan to replace or renovate the township’s main fire station, officials say.
“Money is always an issue,” said fire Chief George Brown, who said the building at U.S. Route 224 near Southern Boulevard is “not conducive to our business.”
The plan initially called for renovations to the current fire station — originally built in 1923 — and its surrounding property or building a new station, fire-prevention facility and offices on new property.
At the end of 2011, the township hired RP Architects Inc. of Columbus to complete a phase one survey of several properties, including its current township-owned property, Brown said.
Once estimates were complete, RP Architects compiled a cost-summary comparison for township officials to examine in November 2012.
It included a total of four sites and six options, Brown said, all of which totaled more than $3.5 million.
Brown said once he realized the money wasn’t there, the township checked to see if grant money was available. There wasn’t. There is no separate budget for the fire department, Brown said. The one public safety levy, at 2.2 mills, is shared with the police department.
“Other than that, we work out of the general fund,” Brown said.
But no money is available in the general fund for the project, Brown added.
Brown and township trustees agree on the need for a new station. “The longer we wait, the more it’s going to cost,” he said.
The main station’s basement is wet, floods frequently and is filled with mildew. Steel beams in the basement are severely rusted. Large “ankle breaker” cracks can be found in the concrete pads outside the garage. Floorboards and stairs are uneven, and space is tight.
“Anybody who would question the need for replacing that station, I would invite them personally to the main fire station, and I will show them the issues,” said Jason Loree, township administrator. “The internal guts of the building are also issues that need to be taken care of.”
The fire-prevention building is no longer located within the station. It’s next door, and Brown said that creates miscommunication between employees in each building.
Brown and other firefighters continually fight floods and, at times, sewage waste, in the basements of those buildings, Brown said.
Space is another issue, he added. The firefighters’ bunk areas are no more than a 10-foot-by-5-foot area separated by old curtains on tracks. Floorboards and steps from floor to floor are uneven and warped. At one time, a hole — large enough for someone to fall through — was discovered under the carpet in one of the office floors of the fire-prevention building, Brown said.
Trustees and Brown determined the best option, at the time of the phase one survey, would be to stay at its current location. That plan would cost the township slightly more than $5 million, according to the cost-summary comparison, after including appliances, electronics and other needed items, Loree said.
The next phase would have been to decide whether the township could come up with the money and begin taking bids, Brown said.
But the township, shortly after, received an offer to sell the property on Route 224. The property then had to be appraised. Loree found out about 10 days ago the property was worth $800,000.
Loree said, since then, a few other options are “under review.” Those include the possible purchase of the former Ford, Lincoln Mercury property across Southern Boulevard from the current property on Route 224 and two other plans that would mean renovations to buildings on the current property.
RP Architects estimated the Ford, Lincoln Mercury building and site preparation would cost the township about $4.6 million. But before the township can purchase it, that property must be appraised.
The trustees hired Vantell Associates Inc. to appraise the former dealership property.
“Essentially we want to try to find the location that is the most cost effective and still provides adequate coverage for the fire department,” Loree said.
Loree said he and the trustees are trying to make sure they fund the project out of the general fund so it would not affect taxpayers.
“If indeed other financial options are considered, that will be down the road when we have a set location,” Loree said. “But everything right now, we would be looking to finance internally.”