August 28, 2014

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North Ridgeville Fire Department takes shot at stimulus funds for station projects

NORTH RIDGEVILLE — While its odds of success are admittedly slim, the city’s Fire Department is making a run at federal stimulus dollars for two new fire stations estimated to cost $8 million.

The city hopes to secure money from the $210 million American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Fire Station Construction Grant Program.

The goal is to build a new central fire station to replace the state Route 83 facility built in 1957, and a new satellite station to better serve the rapidly growing northwest and southwest parts of town. The new main station is estimated to cost $5 million to $6 million, while the satellite station would run around $3 million, according to Fire Chief Rick Miller.

Despite some 6,000 applications for money have reportedly been submitted by fire departments nationwide, but Miller said North Ridgeville’s odds were improved because its request was submitted days before the July 10 deadline.

The city didn’t have to scramble for the required data including projected cost figures for construction materials and labor costs.

That’s because the city already had nearly everything needed to fulfill the grant applications requirements from an ongoing architectural study OK’d by Council earlier this year.

The $18,000 study is being done by Columbus architects Mull and Weithman, a firm that specializes in the design of fire stations. The ongoing study eventually will include conceptual drawings of proposed stations.

Plans for the new fire stations also will include green features such as energy and water-saving sensors that turn lights and faucets on and off only when rooms are entered and fixtures are activated.

Officials have no idea when to expect word on awards of federal money.

“Since this is the first time for such a program, no one’s sure just how the process is going to work,” Miller said. “The longer we go without hearing anything, the better.”

Miller believes North Ridgeville’s chances also may be helped by a relative lack of other local requests for funds.

“Avon, Carlisle and North Olmsted just built new stations within the past few years, and Oberlin is in the process of renovating theirs.”

If the city doesn’t get any stimulus dollars, it would still look to a ballot issue to pay for new facilities.

Based on revenues generated by a current 1.75-mill ambulance-EMS levy, officials project a 1-mill levy would generate about $750,000 a year to pay for the new stations. Such an issue would likely not appear on the ballot, Miller has said, for a year or two, or until the economy has rebounded.

On Thursday, the Fund for Our Economic Future, a Northeast Ohio consortium of foundations and philanthropic organizations, announced $100,000 in grant money will go to a study on the feasibility of regionalized fire department and emergency services for North Ridgeville and six western Cuyahoga County cities. Expected in six to eight months, the study could recommend one unified fire district for all seven cities, or a partial consolidation or sharing of fire services for three or four communities.

Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or sfogarty@chroniclet.com