After getting back on their feet following a fire at the station in 2015, the Florence Township Firefighters Association knew it was time for a new home.
The station suffered extensive damage in the blaze which destroyed several trucks as well. Insurance and donations have rebuilt the fleet with mostly new trucks, but nothing substantial has been done with the old structure.
The confines of the old structure were such the firefighters couldn’t get the trucks out in time when the fire occurred. A different solution was required.
The firefighters are now coming to the voters to support a 2.3-mill levy that will raise the money to build a new station on Michigan Street in Edon. The building will have nine doors, one for each truck in the fleet, including a bay for an EMS unit.
The Township Trustees and the Firefighters Association convened a gathering April 11 to clear the air of all the rumors and misinformation being spread about the proposed station and the millage to support the construction cost.
“We want to get everything out in the air, show you the facts, show you what we’ve been doing the last year and a half,” Chief Jay Klingler said. “I know people haven’t seen a lot of action, a lot of results and we’re are going to show you why tonight.”
The facts were laid out in a Power Point presentation that spelled out what the department got for its insurance settlement in terms of trucks and what it would cost to replace them. The cost of equipment was spelled out and officials pointed out how much was covered by grants.
Operating a modern fire department, even for Florence Township, is not cheap and that’s with its 38 members not receiving a salary.
Klinger applies for any grant he can to buy new equipment and recently secured a $150,000 FEMA grant for new self-contained breath apparatus units.
Even purchasing simple items such as an axe or a ladder must be done according to NFPA standards. That means $360 for an approved ladder as opposed to half as much at Home Depot. An NFPA axe costs $98 where a homeowner could get one for $37 at the store.
The trucks, with a 25- to 30-year life span, will cost as much as $528,000 to replace.
After laying out their case for stretching a dollar as far as they could, the demonstration switched to the need for a new fire station.
The proposed building will occupy 13,175 square feet, which is larger than the existing fire station before the blaze, but smaller than rebuilding the station at the existing site would be. The new building has an estimated cost of $1.3 million.
The designs and layout were developed using the Williams County Engineer. The township/firefighters followed state guidelines with design.
The Fire Department has $500,000 left of its settlement from the insurance company and that leaves $800,000 to be covered by the levy. The 10-year millage will cost an owner of a $100,000 home $80.50 a year in new property taxes, Florence Township Trustee Bert Brown said.
“We took a lump sum with the insurance, Brown said. “It was the only way to come to a number. They wrote a check and were done.”
The settlement was for the building and contents, he said,
While some residents questioned the need to build a new station, Bob Thiel of Thiel Construction said the old building needs to be replaced. The cost to refurbish the building is close to $1 million, he said.
The firefighters and township have looked at the cost of staying put and going somewhere else.
Before the fire, the building occupied 10,000 square feet. Rebuilding on site would result in a 15,000- square-foot building, but there would be no room for parking.
A new structure would be 13,175 square feet, which officials said were optimal. There would be room enough for both a fire department run and a community event coincide and not interfere with each other during a call, about parking.
An evaluation of staying put or going new touched on points such as cost of replicating portions not destroyed; cost of moving the tower; close to downtown Edon; investing in a new building technologies or staying in the existing aging structure; having an opportunity for ample parking and the like.
The feeling was it is now or never.
After looking at eight or nine locations and talking with the owners, the choice is at 300 block of S. Michigan St. across from Colbart’s Bicycle Shop.
The site has the space for parking and future growth and the soil is good for construction. Local utilities are nearby as well.
The proposed layout shows a station with nine bay doors, so each truck has a way out, Thiel said. There is room for a community center so the township operations can stay in the same building.
Despite what it looks like on paper, the building will not be like the Bryan Fire Station, Thiel said.
“We don’t need the Taj Mahal, we just need a decent building,” Thiel said.
The site will have a 150 parking spaces which will be more than enough for multiple uses, Thiel said. The parking will have a stone surface at first, but in the future, could be paved, he said.
The bay doors will have some windows to allow for natural lighting, Thiel said. There will be two doors on the building’s north side for firefighters to enter during a run, he said.
“It will be a functioning building,” Thiel said. “It will be maintenance free.”
The event was the final presentation of the information, Klingler said. The audience was different this time compared to a previous presentation, he said.
“We want to get people the information,” Klingler said. “I think we have done the best possible research and I think we are in the best possible situation.”
The election is May 2.