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MTFR seeks new facility; WSU land is preferred option

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At its July 15 meeting Village Council approved a letter of support for Miami Township Fire-Rescue’s proposal to acquire the former site of Wright State Family Clinic for a new fire station and Township administration building. Several villagers and MTFR supporters attended the meeting to express their support, and Council also received letters from villagers backing the project.

“You have an excellent squad here,” Dr. Lynn Bailey, the trauma medical director of Greene Memorial Hospital said to Council. “They have to move somewhere and they have to move quickly. They’ve trained well and they deserve better” than the aging, too-small current facility on Corry Street, which Bailey stated hinders the department’s ability to attract top-quality volunteers.

The MTFR hopes to acquire the 4-acre former site of the Wright State clinic, which is owned by Wright State University, according to Fire Chief Colin Altman in a presentation to Council. While the fire department has been in communication with WSU leaders for the past year and a half in hopes that the state school would donate the land for the station, WSU recently said that it will not offer the land for free. However, the university is open to negotiating on a fair price, given that the land would be used for a community purpose, Altman said. When the Wright State clinic closed several years ago, university leaders stated that they hoped to use the land for a purpose that would benefit the community.

The MTFR is not asking Council for financial help, Altman emphasized. Rather, he sought a letter of support to present to WSU leaders along with other letters from the community. Council member Karen Wintrow suggested that Council could do better than just writing a letter. Along with that, she said, Council members could be a part of a community team to join MTFR leaders in their talks with the university.

“The more voices heard, the more people at the table, the better it will be,” she said.

Financing for the new station, projected at $3.5 million, would come from bonds issued from the Ohio Township Association leasing authority, which would be repaid by funds from a new levy, Altman said.

New in the MTFR proposal are potential partnerships with two other entities for collaborative use of the land, according to Altman. The fire department has been in talks with a group of physicians who are interested in opening a new office in town, and is also conferring with Home, Inc., around the potential to build senior housing on a portion of the land.

“I think it would be exciting to have a mixed-use facility there in the center of town,” Altman said.

The department also hopes that the new facility would include a meeting room open to community use, Altman said, stating that if the project moves ahead, the department also plans to hold a series of public forums seeking input on the needs of villagers.

The need for a new fire station and Township office building has been acute for some time, Altman said. The 50-year-old facility on Corry Street is too small at 7,500 square feet, has crumbling floors, needs a new roof, has vehicle bays that limit the size of vehicles that can be used and a sleeping area for volunteers that exposes them to the diesel fumes that drift upward from the vehicles below, among other difficulties, he said. And the building for Township trustees is so small that there is little private space.

Several years ago the Township hired MSA Architects, who found the Township needed a facility that is twice its current size on about two to three acres. At that point, MTFR leaders began looking for appropriate space in town. While they came up with several possibilities, including the former Vernay Lab site, the Center for Business and Education, the lot behind the Sontag Fels Building owned by Antioch College and the Village-owned public works complex, all of the sites besides the former Wright State clinic were inadequate, Altman said. Either the other sites did not allow the within-four-minutes response time to emergency calls that is the national standard the squad seeks to maintain, or the sites were too small.

The former Wright State site offers an attractive large-enough space across from Friends Care Community, and near Antioch College and downtown, and its central location allows the squad essential quick response time needed to serve the community, Altman said.

Council members expressed strong support for the project, with Acting President Lori Askeland agreeing with a suggestion by Richard Lapedes that the Village and Township “push back” on WSU’s position not to donate the land for public use.

“There should be pushback to making a public agency pay for public land,” Askeland said.

The Council vote on the proposal was 4–1, with Gerry Simms voting against. While Simms said he supports the new facility, he was disappointed that the Township trustees had not engaged with Council sooner on the project, which Simms said he was hearing about for the first time.

“I feel Council was ignored in the process,” he said.

In response to a question on the timeline, Altman said if a deal can be negotiated with WSU leaders, the next step would be for the architects to complete a master plan, after which public meetings would be held. The first possibility that a levy for the new firehouse might be on the ballot would be November 2014, he said.

Other items from the July 15 Council meeting will be in next week’s News.

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