Struthers council passes 2018 budget despite fire station disagreement
By Graig Graziosi
City council approved an operating budget for 2018 at $11,915,235, with a general fund of $5,332,196.
The version of the budget passed Wednesday is identical to the budget proposed by Mayor Terry Stocker, with the exception that $50,000 earmarked for the construction of two vehicles bays onto the main fire station was moved into the capital improvement fund.
The fire-station vehicle bays proved to be a sticking point for Councilman-at-Large Michael Patrick, who abstained from voting in favor of the budget.
“That fire station was built in 1942 and went into operation in 1943. Once those contractors get into that building they’re going to find a lot more work needs to be done,” Patrick said. “I worry that pursuing this project may result in the new fire building never getting built. If we rely on the public to fund the new station, they may look at the money we’re spending on this and not support it.”
The fire department’s squad truck currently is parked outside of the station, where it is subject to wear and tear from the elements.
A weak load-bearing wall in the sublevels of the station prohibit the firefighters from parking the heavy trucks on that portion of the floor, which forces them to park the smaller truck outside. The planned addition would see both fire engines parked in the new bays and the squad truck parked in the station’s rear garage, which currently houses one of the engines.
“The bays will be an asset for the city,” Stocker said. “Not only will it allow us to protect the trucks, but when we do move into the new building, we’ll be able to use the old station for storage, which we definitely need. Records retention alone is a major undertaking.”
Patrick said he had sought the opinion of another contractor who said the weak wall could be reinforced to hold the weight of a truck, which would provide a short-term solution to the issue until the new fire station is built. He believes that option would also save the city money in the long run.
Councilman-at-Large Dallas Bigley, who also chairs the city’s police and fire committee, said he supported the expansion and was committed to seeing the new fire station built, though the city is still exploring potential funding options.
“I’m full steam ahead on building a new fire station,” Bigley said. “Plans for the addition serve all of the city’s purposes, now and in the future. To me and to the other six people on council, this is a great asset to the city. Patrick is the only person who doesn’t feel the addition is an asset because he’s afraid we won’t follow through with the addition.”
The city’s budget in 2017 was $10,896,375.07.