NORTH RIDGEVILLE — Even though land has already been purchased for a satellite fire station to serve the city’s burgeoning northwest side, a new central fire station is a higher priority for the city, the city’s fire chief says.
Fire Chief John Reese detailed his department’s five-year plan, which seeks more than $11 million for two new stations and other needs, during a daylong meeting Friday with City Council and the administration. The new central station topped his wish list.
“Getting the No. 1 station built and moved has to be our top priority,” Reese said Tuesday. “We are badly in need of a new headquarters with more office space and other things. The current location is bad.”
Built in 1957, the city’s main station on Avon-Belden Road near City Hall is a cramped, aging affair with a temporary trailer-like addition that serves as sleeping quarters for on-duty firefighters, he said.
“It’s like having five guys living in a 900-square-foot house together,” Reese said of the temporary housing behind the main station that fronts Avon-Belden.
“The only advantage is they can go into the (equipment) bays to get some space,” Reese added.
More inside room also would enable the department to store vehicles that sit outside at the current station, including three chief’s cars, a pickup used for grass fires, a rescue boat and other equipment.
Physical fitness equipment that takes up part of a bay in the main station would be moved to the basement of a new 22,594-square-foot station estimated to cost between $5.7 million and $5.9 million. The figure does not include costs of acquiring 3½ acres for the building, which have been projected between $320,000 and $550,000.
That cost for acquiring property for a four-bay, two-story station could be partially recouped from sale of the land where the main station sits now, Reese surmised.
“There’s great traffic flow in front of it,” Reese said. “It’s not ideal for a fire station, but it’s what you want for a commercial property.”
The fire department has long eyed a stretch of Center Ridge Road between Wallace Boulevard and Lear-Nagle Road for the new main station.
Possible locations include land near an Advance Auto Parts store and behind the Pat Catan’s at the corner of Center Ridge and Lear-Nagle roads.
Reese said he would love to see a new main station and a satellite station at Stoney Ridge and Barres roads built at the same time, although that scenario is unlikely.
Land has already been purchased at Stoney Ridge and Barres roads for a fire station to serve the fast-growing northwest part of town.
“I anticipate it would be the busiest station in town,” Reese said, in large part to the presence of two of the city’s biggest housing developments, Meadow Lakes and Avalon, as well as two major nursing facilities — Center Ridge Health Campus and Northridge Health Center.
A third station would improve response times for fire and ambulance in an area that anticipates the addition of 700 houses to the more than 2,000 homes already in the Meadow Lakes and Avalon developments.
While emergency first responders ideally should reach their destinations in four minutes or less, it now takes up to 12 minutes to reach some spots in the 25-square-mile city, whose steadily ballooning population stands at more than 31,600 residents.
Built in 1975, the city’s second satellite station on Lorain Road remains in fairly good shape and should serve the city’s southeast side for years to come.
A fourth fire station serving the city’s southwest has also been discussed, but that project is years away, Reese said.
Three new firefighter-paramedics and three lieutenants also were proposed by Reese to enable the department to form a third fire company in anticipation of the day when the city will boast three fire stations.
The increases would boost manpower from 33 to 39 at a projected cost of roughly $600,000 a year, which would include salary, pension, Medicaid and medical insurance costs.