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Miami Township

2.4-mill levy for a new fire station

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A new fire station may finally be in the works for Miami Township.

The township is seeking to build a new $5.75 million facility on land it purchased last October, a portion of the former Wright State University Physicians site on Xenia Avenue in Yellow Springs. Township trustees had been working for over five years to acquire the land from WSU.

Miami Township Fire-Rescue’s current station, located at 225 Corry St., is more than 60 years old and no longer meets the needs of a modern fire department, according to Fire Chief Colin Altman on Monday.

“Basically, we’ve outgrown the building,” he said.

Miami Township Fire-Rescue, or MTFR, serves all of Miami Township, including Yellow Springs, Clifton and unincorporated portions of the township. More than 80 percent of service calls come from Yellow Springs, according to Altman. 

In 2016, the department responded to a total of 1,189 fire and emergency calls, a 30 percent increase over 2013, he said. Altman attributed the rise to an aging population, which uses more emergency services, and to growing numbers of visitors to Yellow Springs, particularly during the summer, when service calls spike. MTFR also has a higher percentage of mental health calls than any other EMS service in Greene County, he said.

A new 2.4-mill levy to pay for the fire station will be on the ballot May 2. If passed, the new levy will cost homeowners $84 per year for every $100,000 of appraised home value for the next 30 years, according to information provided by the Miami Township Firefighters’ Association.

Township trustees are seeking a long-term bond for the project, and the levy will be used to pay off the bond over 30 years, Miami Township Trustee Chris Mucher said Monday.

The new levy would be in addition to the existing 3.8-mill fire levy, which provides operating funds for the department. That levy will be up for renewal in 2019, and has stayed at the same level for the last 20 years, according to Altman. The fire levy costs homeowners about $116 per year for every $100,000 of home value, according to a Nov. 4, 2014, report in the Xenia Gazette. 

Voters have been overwhelmingly supportive of the fire levy, and Altman said he hopes the fire station project likewise draws support.

MTFR is holding an open house at 225 Corry St. this Saturday, April 1, from noon to 2 p.m. Information on the new levy will be available then. A public forum on the issue is scheduled for Thursday, April 20, at 7 p.m. at the fire station. Additional information can be found at mtfrlevy.org.

The current estimate of $5.75 million for the new station, provided by MSA Architects of Cincinnati, is about double the previous estimate of $2.5 million to $3 million, prepared by the same firm five years ago. The increase is due to sharp rises in construction costs in the Miami Valley, according to Altman. “Building costs have skyrocketed,” he said. 

The scope of the project remains the same, according to Trustee Mucher.

The new fire station is slated to be 20,000 square feet, about two-and-a-half times as large as the current station, which is 7,500 square feet. The space is needed to house equipment in a safer manner that is up to current national standards, and to provide expanded office and overnight space for station staff and volunteers, according to Altman.

The current Corry Street station has serious limitations, he said. Trucks are housed with as little as four feet between them and one foot away from the back wall, making cleaning and repair difficult, and exposing the back wall, where firefighters’ gear is hung, to intense diesel fumes. Diesel fumes are also a health hazard for overnight staff and volunteers, who sleep in a small room above the engines. 

The lack of space limits equipment upgrades, simply because the bays are too small for some modern firefighting and emergency response vehicles, according to Altman. The department currently has seven trucks, six of which are housed at Corry Street. A seventh truck is kept at the department’s second, much smaller station in Clifton.

More room is also needed for MTFR staff and volunteers providing overnight coverage. The new building would allow for up to eight people to stay overnight, and would include updated kitchen and bathroom facilities, including separate bathrooms for men and women. A fitness room, currently located in the Clifton station, would also be housed in the new fire house.

“We’re trying to drag our facility into the 21st century,” Altman said.

The department’s evolution from an all-volunteer force to a hybrid of paid staff and volunteers is accelerating the need for more space, according to Mucher. “Across the country, the trend is toward fewer volunteers,” he said. And that means more people working, or staying overnight, on site, rather than being called in from their homes.

According to Altman, the department currently has 28 volunteers and 11 paid staff, five of them full-time. Nearly half of the volunteers live outside Miami Township, he said.

The existing Corry Street station is in need of a new roof and other major repairs, so the time for building a new facility is now, Altman said. MSA Architects have indicated that renovations and repairs would cost about the same as building a new facility, he added. And there is no place to expand on the current site.

“We’re landlocked on four sides,” Altman said.

The new fire station would be located on two acres at 1001 Xenia Ave., directly across Herman Street from Friends Care Community. According to Mucher, township trustees studied several potential sites in the village, but the former WSU clinic area (the buildings were razed in 2010) emerged as the first choice because of size and location. The site has the quickest potential response time to locations thoughout Miami Township of any spots considered, second only to the existing fire station, Mucher explained.

Though the Xenia Avenue site was identified over five years ago, negotiations with WSU to acquire the land took a long time, according to Mucher. “We kept working at it,” he said. The township was initially interested in the whole four-acre parcel, but the cost ultimately proved prohibitive. 

On Oct. 26, 2016, the Wright State University Board of Trustees approved the sale of the two acres fronting Xenia Avenue to Miami Township for $350,000. The university retains the remaining two acres of land, which includes 15 Residence B lots.

Asked about the potential for noise and disruption across from Friends Care, Altman replied that proximity was an advantage, as the nursing care facility is the single largest call generator in the township. The bays of the new facility would face away from Friends Care, and not all of the department’s two to three daily service calls require lights and sirens, he clarified.

If the levy passes, the township would put the project out to bid, per Ohio law. Construction would likely begin in late fall and take about a year, according to Mucher. The existing station would be sold, with proceeds going back to the township.

“I feel firmly it’s an excellent project for residents of the village and township. We’ll be able to keep a real high level of service well into the future,” Mucher said.

Contact: ahackett@ynews.com

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2.4-mill levy for a new fire station

by Audrey Hackett