MIDDLETOWN — With eight ceremonial shovels of dirt, the future of fire services in Middletown blazed a new trail.
The city held a ground-breaking for its Middletown Division of Fire Headquarters, Station 83, Monday afternoon at the site of the former Garfield School at the corner of Yankee Road and Cherry Street.
Fire Chief Thomas Snively said fire headquarters, expected to open in November 2024, will provide “better public safety” to Middletown residents and better working conditions for firefighters and paramedics.
“It will have a huge impact on this community for the next 50 years,” he said will standing between eight shovels and Engine 83.
He said Middletown last built a fire station in 1977 and the oldest one was constructed in 1946. None of the existing stations are sprinklered and their sleeping areas do not meet the minimum requirements for egress. Additionally, the current stations do not meet accessibility requirements and lack essential facilities, according to fire officials.
“This day was a long time coming,” Snively said.
The four fire stations, headquarters, stations 81, 82 and 85, are being built with tax funds and federal funds. In May 2022, voters overwhelmingly approved a 1-mill property tax levy expected to generate $16.9 million that, at the time, residents were told was enough to cover the construction cost of the four stations.
But since then, due to escalating construction and material costs, the projected price tag is $26.8 million, or $9.9 million over earlier estimates, using worst-case scenarios, according to city leaders.
Too offset the gap in funding, City Manager Paul Lolli has said the city could use $4.7 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds.
Lolli, the city’s former fire chief, said he will make a presentation during Tuesday’s City Council meeting in hopes council members approve his option how to finance the remaining $5 million. He told the Journal-News after the ground-breaking that he was confident he’d receive council support.
“Council is solidly behind” the project,” said Lolli, who added council will determine what fund to take the money.
Mayor Nicole Condrey, who attended the ceremony with council member Tal Moon, quoted Abraham Lincoln when she said: “Government should do for the people what the people can not do for themselves.”
She said public safety delivers “mission critical services” and it was important for the city to keep its “promise” to residents who supported the levy.
Once the new stations are completed, city leadership will determine the future use of the former fire station sites, officials said.
The ceremony also was attended by State Rep. Thomas Hall (R-Madison Twp.), former fire chief John Sauter, assistant fire Chief Steve Ludwig, city officials and numerous Middletown firefighters.
The fire stations are the next step toward the revitalization of the city, Lolli said. Once they’re built, the city will have new public school buildings, improved road conditions with major East End development on the horizon.
Lolli called Middletown “a great place to be.”
ESTIMATED COSTS, TIMELINE OF BUILDING FOUR FIRE STATIONS
- New fire headquarters location replacing the 1.38-acre site on Roosevelt Boulevard: A 3.6-acre site at Yankee Road and Cherry Street owned by the city as acquired from the Middletown City Schools and former site of Garfield school. Size: 24,300 square feet. Total cost: $10.5 million. Expected completion: November 2024.
- Station No. 81 location replacing 0.28-acre site on Clinton Street: A 2.85-acre site at Henry Avenue and Charles Street owned by the city as acquired from the Middletown City Schools and former site of the Jefferson school. Size: 10,200 square feet. Cost: $5 million. Construction begins in August 2024, expected completion by June 2025.
- Station No. 85 location replacing 0.86-acre site at Central Avenue and Breiel Boulevard: A 2-acre parcel at Sophie Avenue and Stolz Drive encompassing the undeveloped, southern portion of Dowling Park owned by the city. Size: 10,200 square feet. Cost: $5 million. Construction begins in August 2024, expected completion by June 2025.
- No. 82 location replacing 0.88-acre site on Dixie Highway: A 2.7-acre site at Ohio 122 and Atrium Boulevard acquired from Premier Health/Atrium Medical Center. Size: 11,800 square feet. Cost: $5.9 million. Expected completion by November 2024.
SOURCE: City of Middletown/App Architecture