Mayor addresses future fire station plans

by Dan Holland

June 13 city council work session

Broadview Heights Mayor Sam Alai addressed plans for a future fire station and headquarters during the June 13 city council work session.

Issue 4, a charter millage amendment to build a new fire station and headquarters on the city’s campus, failed on the May 3 ballot by a 60% to 40% vote. The plan called for a 24,350-square-foot, $11.5 million station to be built at Memorial Drive and Broadview Road near fire station No. 2, with the city contributing approximately 20-25% of total project costs.

“I’ve talked with a number of residents about the need for a fire station over the last year or so, especially in this last month after the election,” Alai said. “As I’ve stated numerous times before, I will respect the will of the residents and the voters as we did with the recreation levy and the deer culling issues. I have no plans [for this issue] to go back on the ballot this fall or for that matter, anytime in the very near future.”

Alai said the city will continue to seek additional funding options, pursue grants and also apply cost-saving measures in the city in an effort to set aside money prior to revisiting the issue with voters. He said the city hopes to have 40-60% of the funding in place before readdressing the topic.

The $100,000 the fire department saved recently by refurbishing the ambulance box on the an existing ambulance instead of purchasing will be put towards the fire station fund, he noted.

Design plans, expected to be complete by late summer, will provide the price tag for the proposed station. City council approved an agreement last November with Van Auken Akins Architects LLC to provide architectural services for the proposed fire station. In February, Infinity Construction Co., Inc., was hired to provide pre-construction services.

Pre-engineered materials will be factored into the design in order to bring down the cost, Alai added.

“By the end of August, we will have complete documents ready to build a fire station – whether it’s a year from now or several years from now – the documents will be ready,” Alai said. “We will have the cost of the fire station in today’s dollars; those are deliverables. At that point, we will suspend our contracts with VAA and Infinity; they’ve been wonderful to work with and very understanding. We hope to work with them again sooner as opposed to later.”

Alai stressed that if and when the issue goes to the ballot, it will be presented as a bond issue rather than a charter millage amendment.

“It would have a term of 20 or 25 years, and then it would be gone forever once the building is paid for,” Alai said. “Or, if we are able to save enough money, then we could just go ahead and build it.”

Alai said he and other officials had recently visited a brand-new $6.2 million, 26,000 square-foot fire and EMS station built in Danbury Township in Ottawa County, Ohio.

“Danbury Township Is building that big station because they’re looking to the future, and it would be a sad day if I didn’t look to the future for this city,” Alai continued. “I won’t be here forever, but the city will be. I have to make sure when I leave here that it is set up for the next 20-40 years and that we won’t have any issues. That’s my responsibility – to make this city better and safer than it was when I showed up. This fire station needs to happen at some point in time, just not within the next [18 months].”

Fire Chief Jeffrey Hajek also addressed the cost-saving measures being applied within the department and city over time that could be put toward a new station.

“Rather than having 25% of the money in hand, we can go to the public with 40-60% of the money in hand and still be looking for grants,” Hajek said. “So, if we come back in a year-and-a-half or so, we can show what we’ve done as far as saving money and make it a more palatable thing for the residents.” ∞