Fire Chief Rich Benton said he is in the process of moving his office and the Fire Prevention Bureau to the Cedar Street fire station, where officers and administrators will have to co-exist.
“We have to cut corners everywhere we can, and this is one of those corners,” he said. “This is the way it will be until we can open another station or build another fire station as recommended in the fire audit.”
Benton expects the move to take place within the next month. The files, records and some equipment at the station — which was built in 1991 and never completed — will be moved to Cedar Street.
The trucks and larger pieces of equipment housed at the station eventually will be moved, too, although for now, the radio system — including the tower — will stay.
“This has been in discussion for years, so we didn’t learn anything new in the audit. But at a time when every penny counts, we look at something like this as every little bit helps,” Benton said.
Mayor Bill Grace said this is the first recommendation in the extensive fire management study done by the McGrath Group that the city is acting on.
Consolidating the Broad Street station with the Cedar Street station was the best option for many reasons, according to the study. The two stations — just 0.6 miles apart — have excessive overlap in terms of protection and, at the Broad Street station, the second floor is unfinished storage space.
The study said that consolidation is the first step in a long process that should ultimately end with Elyria having four fire stations.
It calls for the city to build two new fire stations — one in Ward 3 and one in Ward 6 — in the future and abandon its two stations downtown.
Grace was prompted to make the move now because the city is looking to cut $600,000 from this year’s budget to keep it from going into the red by the end of the year. In addition, a $4.3 million budget deficit is projected for next year.
A 0.5 percent permanent income tax increase issue is on the November ballot, and city leaders are hoping residents will pass it to allow it to maintain — and slightly improve — services next year with the $5.6 million annually it would raise. However, the city is still taking steps to cut the budget.
While the Broad Street building will no longer be used as a fire station, Grace said it is being considered for an alternate use or it could be sold, both recommendations of the McGrath Group.
“We will do whatever makes the most sense,” Grace said. “The biggest barrier to selling the property is relocating the radio tower that is there. We will likely need a new tower because they are hard to move.”
Currently, fire dispatch duties are handled at the Cedar Street station.