From the outside, the brick firehouse on the corner of South Oregon and West Coshocton streets in Johnstown doesn't appear to show its age.
Step inside, however, Monroe Township Fire Chief Dudley Wright said, and one clearly could see that the structure, built in the 1950s, was designed for a volunteer fire force that responded to fewer than 100 emergencies a year.
Currently, the department, with an annual operating budget of roughly $1.8 million, employs 13 full-time firefighters and paramedics and about 25 intermittent and volunteer personnel who responded to more than 2,000 requests for assistance in 2012.
"We've got three ambulances squeezed in there because the trucks are bigger nowadays," Wright said. "Quite simply, we have outgrown it. Our current station is located in a landlocked position on the town square so about the only way to build is up, and that would be inadequate."
Informal plans for a new fire headquarters have been in the works for about eight years.
Monroe Township trustees took the first step Dec. 16 by voting unanimously to enter into a contract to purchase 5.68 acres at 112 and 186 E. Coshocton St. in Johnstown, just northeast of the U.S. Route 62 and state Route 37 intersection.
Trustees have yet to decide when voters would be asked to approve a bond issue to pay for a new headquarters. In 2006, voters narrowly rejected a levy that would have funded a new station.
"We plan to move forward, and we will be discussing that," trustee chairman Joey Robertson said. "We have a lot of work to do. One option is to get control of the ground and wait until 2015 to seek a (bond issue)."
The price for the properties, which are owned by the Buckenberger family, is $475,000. The closing date is scheduled for Friday, Feb. 28.
Trustees tried to acquire the land a few years ago, but the family wasn't interested in selling then, Robertson said.
"They recently approached us, and we entered into negotiations with them," Robertson said. "We really wanted to take advantage of the opportunity that existed with this property. This site is fairly unique in that it's large, has good elevation and is centrally located to our core response area."
A study helped the township identify a site that was centrally located to maintain response times, Wright said.
Personnel respond to more than 1,500 EMS calls annually.
The department provides fire protection and EMS to Monroe Township, the village of Johnstown, Jersey Township north of Worthington Road, a portion of New Albany and McKean Township and most of Liberty Township. The area encompasses 68 square miles.
Some areas are served on a contract basis.
"We have a great relationship with the township and the fire department, and I would expect that to continue," Johnstown Village Manager Jim Lenner said. "Obviously, for the residents, it's good to have your civic buildings located in the core of the village."