October 07 2016 0Comment

Firefighters hope voters will let them say goodbye to station in former hardware store

Originally published at: http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2016/10/07/truro-township-hopes-voters-will-let-it-say-goodbye-to-former-hardware-store.html#

The Truro Township fire chief is confident his department’s campaign for a new fire station speaks for itself.

Just ask the firefighters who eat meals in the same room that holds their clunky exercise equipment. Talk to the township residents who receive walk-up first aid in the lobby next to an obsolete dispatching center — but watch out for the puddles from the leaky roof and the piles of office equipment stored in the hallway.

Conceptual rendering of the new Station 161
Conceptual rendering of the new Station 161

The cramped, repurposed building on East Main Street in Reynoldsburg began its life as a retail store — a history tha

t has become increasingly difficult to hide.

“We’ve maintained it to the best of our ability, but it’s just not functional anymore,” Fire Chief Steven Hein said of the 51-year-old facility his staff has outgrown.

On Election Day, Hein hopes Truro Township residents will support a new property tax levy that would replace the aging station with a new one that’s large enough and meets modern standards. Issue 53, a 2.5-mill, 5-year levy, would generate about $1.1 million yearly for the township. All of the money would be used to construct the station, which would fill the same spot the current one occupies.

If approved, the tax would cost the owner of a $100,000 home an additional $88 a year in property taxes, according to the Franklin County auditor’s office. After five years, the levy would expire and payments would return to their current rates.

The issue will be listed as a “current expenses” levy on the Nov. 8 ballot because the East Main Street fire station also includes a few offices used by township officials, as well as a room for public meetings, which also would be included in the new building, Truro Township Administrator Jason Nicodemus said. The current room has a maximum occupancy of 20 people.

Officials consulted with Columbus-based Mull & Weithman Architects Inc. for estimates on the new firehouse plans. The firm designed the township’s other station on Livingston Avenue that was built about 10 years ago. They and township trustees agreed it would be more cost-efficient and safer to build a new, larger station than to continue to patch the existing one, Hein and Nicodemus said.

A lot has changed since Truro Township purchased the building in 1975, when it was a Sid’s Super Hardware store.

It was renovated, mainly by the firefighters themselves, to accommodate a mostly part-time staff that responded to about 900 emergency calls a year, Hein said. In 2015, the station’s more than 40 full-time firefighters responded to more than 5,600 calls, according to department data. The Livingston Avenue station responded to about 5,000.

The department provides firefighting and emergency medical services to the township, Reynoldsburg and the village of Brice.

The East Main Street Station does not include the same safety features as modern stations, such as a bay area ventilation system. Because of a lack of storage space, firefighters must store their gear alongside the firetrucks, exposing it to harmful diesel exhaust. The station also doesn’t have enough showers — just two for a typical shift of 10 people — to ensure firefighters can wash carcinogens off quickly after returning from a fire.

A new fire station would keep firefighters and township residents safer while lowering operating costs, Hein said.

“Most people know the history of the building and what it used to be,” he said. “We’re hopeful they’ll be supportive and also think it’s time for a new firehouse.”

The deadline to register for the Nov. 8 general election is Oct. 11.

In addition to Truro Township, Hamilton and Franklin townships will also propose new levies to support fire operations on Election Day. A 4-mill continuing levy in Hamilton Township would generate about $1 million annually. A 5.89-mill, five-year levy in Franklin Township would generate $850,000 each year.

If the Franklin Township levy is rejected, officials have said they’ll be forced to close one of the township’s two fire stations and lay off about a third of its 39 firefighters.