Liberty trustees propose committee to study central fire station as plans stall


By Sarah Lehr

slehr@vindy.com

LIBERTY

Plans for a possible merger with the Girard Fire Department have stalled, prompting Liberty trustees to propose going in a different direction.

Trustee Jodi Stoyak suggested during a meeting this month the township form a committee to study creation of a central fire station, which would replace the township’s two aging fire stations.

Though Stoyak placed the fire department issue on the agenda for discussion, trustees never formally voted to create a committee.

Stoyak said she wanted to at least discuss the fire department due to inaction from Girard officials on a merger study.

“I’ve been a bit frustrated with the lack of response from them,” Stoyak said of Girard officials.

Trustees convened a joint session March 29 with Girard officials to discuss commissioning a study on the benefits and drawbacks of a merger of the Girard and Liberty fire departments.

The two communities had hoped to pay for the study using up to $50,000 in state grant money.

At that meeting, a large contingent of firefighters and their supporters spoke against commissioning a study, arguing a merger would negatively affect services to residents. At the end of the meeting, Stan Nudell, Liberty trustees chairman, said the feedback indicated “there was no point” in moving forward with the study and did not bring the issue to a vote.

Stoyak later brought the issue back at the next April 10 regular meeting, at which all three trustees voted for a study. Trustees emphasized the study was only for fact-finding.

Though a majority of Girard City Council members told The Vindicator earlier this year they supported a study, Girard council has never brought the issue to the floor for a vote.

Girard Mayor James Melfi and City Council President Reynold Paolone said council members have so far given no indication they wish to introduce legislation.

Melfi also has said he would support a study that does not cost the city money. Melfi said he needs more information to determine whether he favors a merger.

Canfield, Poland and Hubbard have merged with neighboring fire departments to create joint fire districts. Proponents of joint fire districts say they eliminate redundancies and allow firefighters to apply more competitively for grant money.

Nudell said he is still holding out hope Girard council will take action on a joint fire study. Liberty officials have also floated the idea of merging with a nearby community other than Girard, but have not made concrete steps in that direction.

“Right now, our hands our tied,” Nudell said.

The lack of action prompted Stoyak to renew the call for a central Liberty fire station – an idea township leaders have bandied about for years.

Stoyak contends it is waste of taxpayer dollars to spend money on repairs to the township’s two aging fire stations at 4001 Logan Way and 5920 Belmont Ave.

Both fire Chief Gus Birch and Justin Graham, president of the Liberty chapter of the International Association of Fire Fighters union, support building a new, centrally located fire station.

“It would pay for itself,” Graham said. “Right now, we need to have two of everything.”

Township voters would need to approve the issuance of bond notes to pay for the construction of a new station.

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