More than two years and a few roadblocks later, the Truro Township Fire Department is back on Main Street in Reynoldsburg.
On July 9, the department held a brief "wet-down ceremony," a tradition in which new fire apparatus -- in this case, the station itself -- is commissioned by water sprayed from fire trucks and equipment. It marked the township's return to Station 161, 6900 E. Main St.
"The opening of Station 161 gets us back to our normal, into the spot where everybody knew where we were," fire Chief Jeff Sharps said. "We're back on the main stage, if you will, on Main Street. It gets us back out into the community."
Sharps said July 9 was "opening day" for the crew assigned to Station 161.
"They will be the first crew to start their shift in the new station," he said of the firefighter/paramedics who reported to work at 7 a.m.
Although it is the same station number and address, the $3.9 million building replaces a 1960s-era retail store that had been remodeled to serve as a township fire station since 1975.
"For so long we were just looking at a set of plans," Sharps said. "They were just lines on a piece of paper, and now that we can see all the finishes -- the paint, the color scheme and the carpet -- it's even better than I imagined.
"This station provides so much more natural lighting. The old station was a J-Mart (store); it was a rectangular box with some windows on the outside. Our bunk room didn't even have windows before."
The 16,471-square-foot station has three bays and living quarters for up to 11 firefighters per shift, a training room and more than 700 square feet of administrative offices for the department and the township administrator.
It was made possible by a 2.5-mill levy approved in 2016.
In total, about 26 firefighters will be stationed at the firehouse, Sharps said.
Station 161 also has a balcony where firefighters can congregate in between calls and -- another first for the township -- a fire pole.
"Now we no longer have to say 'We don't have a fire pole because we don't have a 2-story building,' " Sharps said. "We also have grass with this station. The old station didn't have one blade of grass; it was all concrete. The new station really increases the aesthetics of this area of Main Street."
It also includes significant safety and technology upgrades because rather than a retrofitted store, Station 161 was built to be a firehouse, Sharps said.
A ventilation system will remove vehicle exhaust, and a decontamination room will allow equipment to be cleaned properly and put back into service more quickly. The old station lacked both capabilities.
Status boards throughout the building alert firefighters of incoming calls, and the building is wired for high-speed internet and modern communication.
"What this station is really going to do is allow us to take advantage of modern technology," Sharps said. "We're going to have the ability to conduct training remotely so we can keep both stations at their station house while someone is conducting a training in one room at one station. We didn't have that capability before, and we do now."
The new Station 161 initially was slated to open in 2019; work on the project began shortly after the old station was demolished in 2017.
Construction was slowed early on by a wet spring that delayed foundation work. Then, in February 2019, the project's original general contractor, Palmetto Construction LLC., voluntarily defaulted.
In a Feb. 6, 2019, letter, Palmetto said it was unable to fulfill its contract to complete the project but did not say why.
The Ohio Farmers Insurance Co./Westfield Group, the project's surety-bonding company, took over for Palmetto. According to the Ohio Department of Insurance, a surety bond "provides peace of mind to the parties requiring the bond that if a project can't be completed, the monies will be available to pay for completion."
Last September, the township and Ohio Farmers Insurance Co./Westfield Group announced Setterlin Building Co. had been hired as the new general contractor.
The department operated out of a single fire station during most of the construction, moving staff and equipment to Station 162, 6305 E. Livingston Ave.
For about nine weeks this spring, crews from Station 161 operated out of the Reynoldsburg Community Center YMCA on Davidson Drive in order to observe social-distancing guidelines during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. A large white tent was erected in the parking lot to house the fire truck and ambulance.
Sharps said he has been most impressed by the ability of the township's firefighter/paramedics to adapt to changing conditions.
"It's a lot different when you're going from one station to two. We're going from two to one and then back again to two stations," Sharps said. "We couldn't move the mattresses over to the new station until Thursday because we had crews sleeping on them at Station 162."
The department will forgo a ribbon-cutting ceremony or public celebration this summer because of limits on large gatherings and concerns related to the pandemic, but Sharps said he hopes to have a ceremony later this year.
"We want to show this station off and show the community," he said. "It's their fire station. They just allow us to live in it."
The department serves Truro Township, the village of Brice and the city of Reynoldsburg. According to department statistics, it responded to 7,580 calls for service in 2019.