Broadview Heights plans to build a new $ 10.2 million fire hall and will ask for a tax increase in May

BROADVIEW HEIGHTS, Ohio – The city plans to build a new fire hall and ask for a property tax increase to help pay it.

The new station, estimated at $ 10.2 million, would replace that of Broadview and Oakes roads near the town hall. The town’s second fire station, on East Wallings Road across from Joyce Drive, would remain in place.

“Our current (fire department) facilities are among the oldest in (Cuyahoga County) and too small for a city our size,” said Mayor Sam Alai. in an email.

“Additionally, with new technologies and the way firefighters and paramedics perform their duties, we need to update and expand our capabilities to keep our residents safe and keep response times as fast as possible,” Alai said.

During a city council working session on Nov. 29, Alai said that an ad hoc fire station committee – consisting of Alai, Fire Chief Jeffrey Hajek, Deputy Fire Chief Joseph Fleming and from Chairman Robert Boldt – recommended paying 20-25% of the cost of building the station with city savings.

New funds from a property tax increase would cover 75 to 80 percent of the project, although Alai added that the city will seek outside grants that would ease the burden on taxpayers. The city could also borrow money.

On December 6, the council introduced an ordinance that would place a charter amendment on the May ballot. The amendment, if approved by voters, would increase the limit the city can place on landowners for buildings, equipment and fire department operations from 4.2 mills to 6.2 mills.

Council may adopt the ordinance at a special meeting called at 5 p.m. on Tuesday (December 28).

City finance director David Pfaff said that the city has yet to determine by how much it would raise property taxes if voters passed the May vote.

However, the city appears determined to move forward. She has already chosen an architectural firm, Van Auken Akins Architects LLC in Cleveland, to design the new fire station. The city would pay the company $ 810,000 for its services, an amount included in the estimate of $ 10.2 million, according to Alai.

In addition, the city created and transferred $ 1 million to a fire station construction fund. The first million dollars will be used to pay Van Auken Akins.

Lack of space

During the council’s working meeting on November 29, Hajek said the town’s two fire stations were built around half a century ago. The stations are not large enough to store modern vehicles and equipment, and as a result, some equipment is kept in vehicle bays, which is against the National Fire Protection Association code.

Other vehicles and equipment are stored outside stations and even in fire stations in other cities, including Independence, Hajek said. In winter, firefighters must clear snow from vehicles parked outside, which affects emergency response times.

Hajek told the council that only Parma Heights and East Cleveland have older, unrenovated fire stations in Cuyahoga County. He said that although East Wallings Station is the older of the two Broadview Heights stations, he has no plans to replace East Wallings Station in the next 10 years.

Station evaluations

About a year ago, in December 2020, the city was hiring The Public Security Center – an Orlando company that helps first responders determine what they need in stations and buildings – to assess Broadview Heights fire stations. The cost of the study was $ 9,750.

The assessment, completed in July, found that existing stations were not designed with safety measures to protect firefighters and the public.

Meanwhile, firefighters’ vehicles are bigger than they were 50 years ago, and they are carrying more people and equipment. This means that vehicle bays need to be larger and stations need to be fitted with vehicle exhaust collection systems to remove harmful fumes from the building.

In addition, fire departments are more diverse these days, so stations need to provide separate sleeping quarters for men and women. In fact, firefighters in general no longer sleep together in one room but in individual rooms to account for gender and privacy concerns, the Center for Public Safety said.

Broadview Heights fire stations are cramped with little space in front, behind, and around fire trucks. Still, equipment and fitness equipment are stored along the sides of vehicle bays.

Some spaces have become multipurpose spaces out of necessity. These include a room that contains washing machines, water heaters, electrical boxes, janitorial tools and supplies. The foundation settled in some areas of the buildings, causing water intrusion and rusting of the metal.

The Center for Public Security recommended designing a new station with more security on the site; secure car parks for firefighters; separate parking lots for the public and municipal officials from other departments; ample space for vehicles to move and circulate in the bays of the station; a peripheral zone with landscaped buffer zones; and a site large enough for future expansion.

The station would include “shell spaces,” unused parts of the building that would meet future needs. Building hull spaces now would avoid higher construction costs in the future.

The building would measure approximately 28,370 square feet and would include six vehicle slots, a chief’s office, a conference room, a copy-print-supply room, individual dormitories, a day room with recliners, tables and television, a decontamination room, a kitchen and dining room and laundry room.

Alai said that the new station would be built in front of City Hall, a stone’s throw from the existing Broadview Road station, and would become the headquarters of the fire department. Now the headquarters of the department is East Wallings station.

Choose an architect

On November 19, Alai told the council that between 16 and 18 architects had submitted proposals to design the new fire station. The administration chose Van Auken Akins because the company had experience in designing fire stations.

Hajek said Van Auken Akins is working on a fire station project in Lakewood at the time. He said other fire departments who hired Van Auken Akins praised the company for finding ways to save money.

Alai said the administration liked Van Auken Akins because the company “thinks outside the box.” Such an approach is appropriate, Alai said, given that the city is moving from a fire station built in the early 1960s to one that will meet the needs of firefighters until 2040.

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