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MTFR still seeks property

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Miami Township has been looking for a new home for its Fire-Rescue team for over three years, and this summer the land option they had banked on since 2011 fell through. The price of the former clinic property owned by Wright State University was finally named last month, and it was too high, according to Township leaders. Now the Township is returning to a former option of building on the Antioch College campus.

The clinic property on Xenia Avenue between Herman and Marshall streets drifted out of reach when over the summer the Wright State Board of Trustees named a price of $480,000 for the vacant four acres, according to Fire Chief Colin Altman. Though the property is zoned residence B and appraised at a market value exceeding $1 million, in 2011 the public university had considered donating the land to the Township. Both Altman and Township Trustee President Chris Mucher said this week that the current price is unaffordable. University personnel did not return calls last week, but according to Altman, the university indicated that if in a year or two the property was still on the market, the university could reconsider an offer from the Township.

“We don’t feel like waiting that long, and we don’t feel that $480,000 is the best use of our funds,” Mucher said in an interview last week. “Now the Antioch College property is being reconsidered again.”

Before the clinic property became an option, the college under the leadership of Interim President Matt Derr and facilities manager Tom Brookey had considered the use of a one-acre field on East Center College Street for the new fire house. When Township leaders learned that the WSU property was not affordable, they returned to the college about its parcel. Though negotiations have not formally resumed, according to Andi Adkins, Antioch Vice President of Finance and Operations, the college has no current plans for the property and remains open to considering new uses.

“We haven’t worked out the details, but it’s worthy of an initial conversation,” she said this week.

Though an acre isn’t adequate for the fire department’s needs, Vernay Laboratories owns an adjoining property about the same size and fronting on East South College Street. The land currently serves as a parking lot for the company’s headquarters across the street. The Township hasn’t approached Vernay about the use of the land yet, but the space would be necessary to house an adequate facility, Altman said.

Even with the Vernay piece, the property is only two acres, which would require a more costly two-story structure and would almost certainly preclude partnering with healthcare businesses or senior housing organizations to share the land for mutual benefit (as was discussed for the WSU property). But the combined lot is centrally located, equipped for large-vehicle pass-through between West South and East Center College streets, and big enough to support the fire department’s basic needs, said Altman, who as an Antioch student in the 1980s volunteered for the old college’s Maples fire department, located a block away.

The Township hopes to finance the new building, estimated to cost $3–3.5 million, with a bond from the Ohio Township Association to be repaid by a new fire levy. The current 3.8-mill fire/EMS operating levy is up for renewal this year, which would leave 2015 open for the possibility of a new construction levy, Mucher said.

The fire department has long been in need of a new building to replace the Corry Street facility, which at 50 years old and 7,500 square feet, is half the size it should be and too boxed in between the street and the bike path to remodel effectively, Altman said. The building’s floors and roof need to be replaced, the bays are too small for modern vehicles and the sleeping quarters are too close to the garage. Because about half of the department’s 28 fire-rescue volunteers live outside the township, often crews of two to four people spend their night shifts at the fire house breathing diesel fumes drifting up from the bays below.

Township leaders have already engaged with architects to draft conceptual designs for both the WSU and the college properties. While they aim for an affordable project, they also insist that the structure be sustainable, welcoming to the community and “something that people can look at and be proud of,” Altman said.

To get both practical and some level of aesthetic needs met, the building costs will be significant. The trustees, therefore, hope to keep the burden of acquiring the property to a minimum.

“We have a rainy day fund to use as a loan … for property acquisition,” Mucher said. “But we’re not really in the position to cover the substantial cost of a property at its full market value. … If there is a way to acquire a property without spending Township money,” the trustees prefer to pursue that course, he said.


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