August 20, 2014

Elyria
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Lorain Fire Department seeking $2.92 million

LORAIN — A delayed response by the Fire Department could be a matter of life and death.

And although a delayed response to the Fire Department’s $2.92 million request for new equipment and maintenance wouldn’t be life-threatening, Fire Chief Tom Brown told City Council on Tuesday night that improvements are desperately needed.

Brown cited a laundry list of needs: Station 7, at 2111 W. Park Drive, is too remote to respond to many west side fires and needs to be relocated at a $1 million cost. A new site has not been determined.

  • The aging Station 4, at 401 Idaho Ave., which opened in 1919, needs to be replaced at a cost of $500,000. The proposed new location is at the intersection of Garfield and Missouri avenues.
  • Two new pumper trucks would cost $700,000.
  • The leaky roof on Fire Station 3 at 3042 Grove Ave., is causing mold and needs a $100,000 replacement.

The rest of the money would go toward response vehicles, parking lot repavement and other things.

Brown said he doesn’t take the size of the request lightly but believes it’s a sound investment. He said the department’s crumbling infrastructure is compromising its insurance rating, which could eventually lead to higher insurance rates for homeowners.

Brown said that debt for previous Fire Department borrowing is expiring and said borrowing through municipal bonding or a small property tax increase — an extra $10 to $15 annually for the owner of a home valued at $100,000 — was reasonable.

“We can invest with higher insurance rates at some point. We can invest when we don’t have things or we can invest in our future,” he said.

“It would not go to manpower. It would not go to overtime. It would go to buy 25 pieces of equipment and/or repairs.”

Brown said Station 3 is his most immediate priority. Councilwoman Anne Molnar, D-at large, said she had reservations until she toured the station Tuesday.

“It is unfit for anybody to even live in there,” Molnar said. “I know it’s going to cost the citizens of Lorain, but we’ve got to do something.”

Auditor Ronald Mantini said borrowing for the improvements would cost taxpayers about $244,000 annually for 20 years. A property tax increase would work out to 1 mill for four years or 0.5 mill for eight years. A mill is $1 for every $1,000 of taxable property value.

No spending decisions were made Tuesday, and Councilman Eddie Edwards, D-5th Ward, cautioned against a quick decision. Edwards said the department is “the backbone of the city,” but questioned whether taxpayers can afford the entire request.

“There’s no use promising people pie in the sky when we know we can’t afford it,” he said. “We talk about raising property taxes, but you know that’s going to be one hell of a fight.”

However, Councilman Brian Gates, D-1st Ward, supported moving quickly.

“This has been put off for way too long,” Gates said. “This is the safety of our city.”

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com.