Fairfield Twp. proceeds with replacement firehouse

The Fairfield Twp. trustees last week set in motion a renewed attempt to build a replacement fire station for the antiquated and undersized building on Tylersville Road.

Fairfield Twp. fire Chief Tim Thomas said the conditions for the fire station — cramped quarters and offices, storage bins stowed in a narrow hallway, co-ed sleeping quarters, inadequate driveway and undersized vehicle bays — are “horrendous” and a new station is long overdue.

The township is under contract with Kettering Health Network where the hospital group has agreed to provide 5 acres of land to the township to build a new fire station. That land is off Gilmore and Hamilton-Mason roads in the township, and is only a few miles from the current Tylersville Road station.

The firehouse, known as Station 211, is in a building that has been added onto a few times since it opened as a school house in 1856, and shares the building and back lot with the township’s road department.

Many of the road department’s pieces of equipment, including trucks and snow plows attachments, are stored outside exposed to the elements thus putting them at risk for deterioration, according to officials.

“We’re just out of room,” Thomas said. “And we’re looking to have adequate facilities.”

Before the makeup of the board of trustees changed following the 2013 election, trustees in December 2013 borrowed $5 million in notes to pay for a new fire station. But nothing has happened with that money, except for the township paying more than $131,100 in interest payments and paying back $1 million of that loan.

It’s estimated that a new township fire station could cost around $3 million, said Trustee Joe McAbee, who wanted to see the township pay back more of the loan but compromised on the $1 million payback.

He said he just wants to see the process get started and the fire station get built.

“We need to get started on this,” he said, adding he would like an aggressive timeline set.

McAbee said he would like to see ground break this summer or fall and the station built within a year.

Outside of receiving a few requests for qualifications a couple of years ago, progress on a new fire station had been nil. That’s likely because of changeover in not only the administration but also the board of trustees, officials said.

Since December 2013, the township’s administrator and interim administrator have resigned, and the township is on its second interim administrator. Also, the three-member township board of trustees has seen five new members, the latest two being McAbee, who was elected in November 2015, and Susan Berding, who was appointed earlier this year following the resignation of John McGinnis.

The township has received a new batch of RFQs from engineer and design firms, and Fairfield Twp. interim Administrator Julie Vonderhaar said the next step is to interview those firms.

“And we will have more frequent meetings (about the fire station) and the board wants to take a more active role in input,” she said.

A decision needs to be made soon, said Thomas, as the township will soon need to order a replacement fire engine. The direction of the township trustees “will impact how we operate,” he said.

The question Thomas is faced with: does he order a standard-sized engine that can fit through 14-foot bay doors, or does he order another special-order smaller engine in order to fit through 10-foot bay doors — and not be able to stow all the equipment he’d like to have on the truck.

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