Fire Station Straight Talk

Straight Talk About The Fire Station:

As readers are no doubt aware, the issue over the location for a new fire station has recently attracted considerable attention. After almost 12 years of extensive study by Trustees past and present, professional research studies, and considerable public input, the current Trustees have determined the community’s best interests are served by constructing a new fire station on South Main Street, where the Village Service Center is currently located.

The plan, as outlined in the recently agreed to Memorandum of Understanding between the Village Council and the Township Trustees, calls for the Village to construct a new Village Service Department co-located with the Township Service Complex on SR 16. The Village will own the building and the Township will lease the land for $1 annually. The benefits of such a move appear to be self-evident and we have not heard any objection to this part of the plan. In return, after completion of its new service facility, the Village would vacate and demolish the current service building on South Main Street. The Township will construct a new fire station and the Village will lease that property to the Township under the same terms, $1 a year. The Fire Department would remain in its current location until the new station is completed. At that time the current station, which is squeezed into Prospect Street, would be turned over to the Village which owns both the property and building.

As might be expected in a community that values its history as much as Granville does, this decision on the part of the Trustees was not an easy one and was complicated by the passionate attraction to the current downtown location. Indeed, when the current station was re-built in 1971 at the Prospect Street location, like today, there was considerable debate on the best location. The Community Master Plan called for the station to be moved to South Main so as to eliminate every fire and emergency run having to run through the congested village center. Others, citing the fact that it was exclusively a volunteer department and with 80% of the firefighters either living or working within a 10 block radius, that it needed to remain at Prospect Street. The Village and Township officials elected to disregard the Master Plan and rebuild in place. Times change. The fire department is no longer a volunteer organization, and our station suffers space constraints with lack of critical facilities to include integrated living and training facilities for the compensated professionals who constitute our firefighters and paramedics.

Concerns over the proposed move and a few individuals irresponsible use of social media have made our task more difficult. Up until recently the Trustees had not reached consensus on the appropriate Township location and were involved in sensitive discussions over alternative land locations, open discussion of which could have compromised bargaining positions and resulted in a bigger price tag for the taxpayers. This enabled rumors, innuendos and gross distortions to go unchallenged. With our decision now made, the Trustees are committed to putting out the facts behind our decision as well as offering our views on how the benefits accruing to the entire community. This article is the initial effort to outline the plan and address concerns and questions. Let’s start by tackling several of the big questions here:

Cost- Not surprisingly, the estimated cost of constructing a new fire station on South Main Street versus demolishing and rebuilding downtown or other locations was explored. By virtue of collaboration of the Village, the cost of acquiring land and immediate access to water and sewer was reduced to zero at the South Main location. The construction and design costs for the new station which met the needs outlined by the Fire Chief were estimated at approximately $2.75 million by JBA Architects. In contrast, the design and construction costs for rebuilding at the current location came in at $4.5 million. A reputable construction manager familiar with Granville and fire station construction has opined that the downtown estimate is probably 15-25% too low given the challenges of the tight spaces the construction would occur in while constructing a multi-storied steel beam supported facility. Further, with a rebuild downtown, a temporary home for the fire department during the projected two year construction period would be the Township Service Garage. In addition to the substantial costs for on-site living facilities and a decontamination laundry, this two year displacement to this location creates a separate set of issues with regard to increased response times to many areas.

While not a direct cost, re-building in the downtown location will result in a huge burden for businesses and residents of the Prospect and College Street area. The same respected construction manager estimated Prospect Street would face total or partial traffic and sidewalk closures for the duration of the project of two years. He also noted that the only viable staging area for the construction equipment and supplies would be the parking lot between the two banks. Acquiring use of this property is but another significant cost not factored in. Finally, the noise and other disturbance to residents associated with a demolition and construction zone adjacent to a dense residential area cannot be forgotten.

Parking – Rebuilding the station at its current location also exacerbates the problematic parking issues in the downtown area. Recessing a new station 15 feet further back from Prospect Street results in additional 15 feet ingress into Petunia Park, thereby reducing the already scarce parking. The Trustees also noted the plans to reconstruct at the current site essentially avoided the parking issue, failing to adequately address an already serious issue. In contrast, parking is not an issue at the South Main location.

Flood Plain and Response Time – Recently there has been considerable alarm raised over claims placing the fire station at the South Main Street location would result in a location vulnerable to floods and significantly increased response times. This was accompanied by definitive claims that placing the station at South Main would violate local, state and federal law. Extensive research revealed these claims to be total fiction. Simply put, the station will not be built in a flood plain or an area exposed to flooding. With regard to response times, the move five blocks south along a major road artery will result in very minimal increases in the northern sections of Granville Township and improved response times in the growing southern part of the township. More importantly, our senior citizens at Kendal and Middleton, a more at-risk population, will receive better response times.

If you seek the actual facts and data on these issues, starting this week a FACT SHEET will be published on the Township webpage at www.granvilletownship.org. It will be updated regularly to address questions and rumors regarding the move of the Fire Department and Village Service Department. Feel free to submit any questions to us and we’ll respond in an open and honest manner.

These are but a few of the factors and facts that Trustees past and present have taken into consideration in determining the location which best serves public health and safety while at the same time providing our firefighters a quality, state of the art facility that will be viable 20, 30, 40 years from now. The Trustees strongly believe that locating the fire station on South Main and co-locating the Village and Township Service departments will better protect public health and safety while avoiding the multitude of issues with the downtown location….and at a much lower cost.

DAN VAN NESS

MELANIE SCHOTT

KEVIN BENNETT

Answers to Questions Received – updated July 24, 2017

As part of their commitment to promoting transparency and providing an explanation of the various factors leading to the decision to move the Granville Township Fire Department to a location on South Main Street, your Township Trustees are publishing this Fact Sheet. It will contain questions and concerns that have been presented and answers to them. This will be a continuing effort with an update anticipated each week.

Q. If the two historic homes located on College Street (currently used by the Fire Department), would be moved/relocated/demolished, it seems likely that the current location would continue to be a good fit for both the community and the use of our tax dollars. The renovation of the Fire Department could be then done in stages that would allow construction to be done in a manner that lessens the adverse impact.

 A. This requires an understanding of the current process to demolish buildings and/or outbuildings within the Village. Once the Village offices receives a demolition request for a structure, they forward the request to the Granville Historical Society for a detailed review on the historical significance of the structure and a recommendation on whether demolition should take place. That study and recommendation are then returned to Village Council for a final determination. With that as background, the issue of these two houses and a possible demolition to free up space was informally presented to Historical Society officers and Archivist several months ago. Their response was immediate and definitive. Citing the fact these houses are among the oldest buildings still standing and the prominent role their earliest occupants played in Granville history, their “unofficial” opinion was there was no way the Society was ever going to recommend demolition. Now to the next step, it does not appear there are any cases where Village Council has disregarded a Historical Society recommendation not to demolish a structure and while speculative, it seems highly unlikely Village Council would do so in this situation, especially when a viable alternative for the Fire Station location exists just 5 blocks away.  As to moving the buildings, the Township currently own no lots to place these two houses upon. Nevertheless, we met with Dingey Builders of Zanesville, the leading house movers in central Ohio who provided an on-site assessment. For purposes of obtaining a rough cost estimate, the empty lot across the street and another lot locate near Sorority circle, both owned by Denison be evaluated. To move one house directly across the street was quoted at $85,000, but would have to be put in sideways because of lot size. Not included in the cost were acquisition of the lot and constructing a foundation and plumbing. A look westward down College Street presented issues with the numerous power poles and tree overhang. No quote apart from a vigorous head shake and a statement that it was really going to be costly was offered. Not mentioned were the trees in front of the houses that would have to be removed to effect the move. Finally, discussions with Denison senior administration revealed that the mentioned lots were not for sale. In short, moving the buildings was determined to be not only cost prohibitive, but almost impossible.      

Q. If the Fire Station moves to South Main Street what will become of the building? 

A. First, any move will not occur until the new facility is ready for occupancy. This will ensure no interruption in services. In light of projected planning and construction schedules, this will not occur for at least 2-3 years. Once vacated, the Township will formally end its building/land lease with the Village. With regards to future use, that decision is for Village government to make. The Trustees have informally heard expressions of interest for the property and expect it will quickly be put to other uses. Whatever its final disposition, as public property the process will be open and transparent and in accordance with current law.  On a related matter, once the Fire Department moves to South Main, the Township intends to sell the two historic brick houses on College Street. The proceeds will help defray the expense of the new station. Finally, contrary to some rumors, the Township has no plans to demolish the current station once we vacate. Again, we are not the owners of the property.

Q. Why would you locate the new fire station on South Main Street which already suffers periodic traffic congestion? 

A. Those familiar with local traffic are painfully aware that during certain times of the day traffic can become pretty heavy on South Main, due largely to the traffic signals on the overpass bridge. This is going to become temporarily worse if ODOT proceeds with its plans to widen a part of South Main to three lanes as well as the bypass bridge to four lanes. These issues were all carefully considered and measures to mitigate possible traffic impediments to fire department runs from South Main are part of the planning. A traffic signal at the entrance to the station and South Main which can be activated by both fire and police personnel will be part of the solution. This technology, will is modestly priced, can also be embedded into other local traffic signals.

Chief Curtis states traffic is always a concern when responding on emergencies. The greatest concern is for the public, both in cars and pedestrians, and for the emergency responders. Many areas around town have greater risks and some impact on fire and EMS response. For example, North Pearl Street is a challenge to navigate before and after school. This area tends to be more difficult because the traffic has very little room to move due to curbs and the hillside. The downtown block has challenges associated with the traffic light timing and the motion sensor controlled mid-block crossing. Fortunately, this congestion doesn’t create a significant delay in response because drivers are able to make room for emergency vehicles. The South Main Street area also has congestion during peak times. Like the downtown block we are fortunate that traffic is able to yield to the right for fire and EMS apparatus to efficiently and safely pass. Slowdowns occur in many different forms for emergency responders: traffic that fails to yield or is unable to, device controlled intersections, blocked intersections and adverse weather conditions to name a few. It is the responsibility of the driver of the fire or EMS apparatus to navigate traffic and it is the responsibility of drivers, pedestrians and bikers to make every effort to pull right and stop for all emergency traffic. Working together the responders and the public can make each and every response as safe and as timely as possible.

This fact sheet will be continued next week with additional questions and items of concern. If you have a particular question you would like to have addressed, either call 587-3885 or e-mail businessoffice@granvilletownship.org

2010 Public Safety Complex Study:

In late 2010 the Board of Township Trustees engaged the services of a consulting engineering firm to study possible locations for a new fire station based upon distribution of emergency runs and future needs. The study was expanded to cover the possible creation of a Public Safety Complex to include the Village of Granville Police Department. [Click here] to link to a copy of this study which has just been released. The study is a 4MB file which may take a short period of time to download.

2015 Station Replacement Feasibility Study:

In 2015 the Board of Township Trustees hired Moody Nolan Inc. to conduct a feasibility study to determine if a new modern fire station could be built on the current stations site. The new station must be able to meet the communities needs well into the future. On January 12, 2016, Moody presented it findings during a special meeting of the Township Trustees.

[Click here] to link to a copy of their report.