Johnstown Independent

Monroe Township

Search goes on for new fire station property

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Monroe Township leaders thought they had found the ideal place for a new fire headquarters when they entered into a contract in December to purchase more than 5.5 acres of land in Johnstown.

The property at 112 and 186 E. Coshocton St., just northeast of the U.S. Route 62 and state Route 37 intersection, was centrally located to the fire department's core response area, according to Chief Dudley Wright.

Six months later, the search resumes for a new location.

"We did not close (on the deal)," trustees chairman Joey Robertson said. "There were reasons that we couldn't close so now we are hoping to find another suitable location. Of course, the potential for a similar site is very limited, and we are seeing what's out there."

Prior to closing on the land, once owned by the Buckenberger family, trustees were advised by the township's legal counsel to complete an environmental study of the land priced at $475,000.

When it was determined the study would need to enter a third phase, trustees asked the property owners to provide additional funding. The land eventually was sold to Tech International, a tire- and tube-repair company, Robertson said.

"Being a municipal purchase, we wanted to make sure we were doing everything right," he said. "We had spent all the money ($14,000) allocated for the study, so we asked the property owners if they would be willing to pay for what needed to be done. They apparently did not want to do that."

Since then, the township has reached out to several other owners who might be willing to sell land for the new headquarters that informally has been in the works for about eight years.

The current headquarters at South Oregon and West Coshocton streets was built in the 1950s and was designed for a volunteer fire force that responded to fewer than 100 emergencies a year, Wright said.

The department currently employs 13 full-time firefighters and paramedics and about 25 intermittent and volunteer personnel who responded the more than 2,000 requests for assistance in 2012.

The department also provides fire protection and EMS to Johnstown, Jersey Township north of Worthington Road, a portion of New Albany and McKean Township and most of Liberty Township. It has an annual operating budget of roughly 1.8 million.

Trustees have not decided when voters would be asked to approve a bond issue to pay for a new headquarters. The deadline to appear on the November ballot is 4 p.m. Aug. 6, 90 days before the election.

"We want to be on in November, but I think the public wants to imagine what the project entails," Wright said. "They want to have a sense about the project and what's going on."

Voters narrowly rejected a ballot issue in 2006 that would have funded a new station.

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