Middletown buys land from Atrium for fire station, may ask voters to approve levy in November

Middletown city council voted for the city to purchase this 2.7-acre parcel of land near Ohio 122 and Atrium Boulevard as a site for one of its four new fire stations. The property is owned by Premier Health/Atrium Medical Center. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

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Middletown city council voted for the city to purchase this 2.7-acre parcel of land near Ohio 122 and Atrium Boulevard as a site for one of its four new fire stations. The property is owned by Premier Health/Atrium Medical Center. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Atrium sells acres for $80K, far less than going rate, says Middletown city manager.

Middletown is one step closer to replacing four fire stations, including headquarters, after city council unanimously approved an emergency resolution Tuesday night.

Council approved the resolution that allows City Manager Jim Palenick to enter into an agreement to purchase 2.7 acres for $216,000 from Atrium Medical Center/Premier Health that will be used for one of the four fire stations.

To fund them, Middletown voters could see another capital tax levy on the Nov. 2 general election ballot. Palenick said the city could allow the current Central Connections senior levy to expire and place a new, 1-mill continuous levy dedicated to fire capital improvements on the ballot in November for the $15.11 million project.

He said it would also allow the city to take advantage of historic low interest rates for municipal bonds.

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The five-year senior center levy expires Dec. 31 and is expected to generate about $700,000 for the 2020 tax year, according to the Warren County Auditors office.

But Mayor Nicole Condrey, after reading the staff report about how the stations may be funded, expressed concern if Middletown voters rejected a continuous levy.

She urged the city to develop a “good solid plan” to fund the fire stations in case a levy is defeated.

Earlier, Palenick called Atrium “really good corporate citizens” for selling the land at Ohio 122 and Atrium Boulevard for $80,000 an acre when similar land in the area sells for $200,000 an acre.

Partnerships like these allow the city and the hospital to continue to “make a difference in the lives of those we serve,” said Dr. Keith Bricking, president of Atrium Medical Center

He said Atrium, the city’s only full-service hospital and Level III Trauma Center, sees daily the “essential safety service” provided by the Middletown Division of Fire.

Fire Chief Paul Lolli said these locations are in line with fire station location studies and represent a combination of the best locations to support current and future Middletown growth. He said by building all four stations at once, instead of one every five years, the city will save millions of dollars because of low interest rates.

“There is no better time,” he said.

Also at Tuesday’s meeting, council approved a three-year collective bargaining contract with the International Association of Firefighters Local No. 336 for the period from Jan. 1, 2021 through Dec. 31, 2023. The union voted 64-9 in favor of the contract.

The contact calls for raises of 1% the first year, 2% the second year and 3% the third year and lump payments of 3% the first year, 2% the second year and 1% the third year .

Palenick said he was “very comfortable with this” financial arrangement and the contract is “fair and makes sense.”

Assistant City Manager Susan Cohen said it was “a great solution for both sides.”


POSSIBLE FIRE STATIONS LOCATIONS IN MIDDLETOWN

  • Fire Headquarters/Station 83: Relocated from Roosevelt Boulevard to Yankee Road and Cherry Street, former Garfield School site. The station would have five bays and would be about 24,350 square feet. It would have a tower to hang hose and for training use, and a large conference room for training.
  • Station 81: Relocated from North Clinton Street to Charles Street and Henry Avenue, former Jefferson School site. This station would have three bays and be about 11,250 square feet.
  • Station 82: Moved from Dixie Highway to Atrium Boulevard and Ohio 122. It would have two bays and would be 9,700 square feet.
  • Station 85: Moved from Central Avenue to Sophie Street and Stolz Drive, an undeveloped portion of Dowling Park. It would have two bays and be 9,700 square feet.

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