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Published: Saturday, 10/13/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

Councilman urges repairs on North Toledo station, chief wants to move to new location

BY TAYLOR DUNGJEN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Toledo City Council president Joe McNamara prepares to host a press conference outside Toledo Fire Station 3. The city has already announced that, after a fault was found in the floor, the station would be replaced. Toledo City Council president Joe McNamara prepares to host a press conference outside Toledo Fire Station 3. The city has already announced that, after a fault was found in the floor, the station would be replaced.
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Despite a plea on Friday from City Council President Joe McNamara to forgo the relocation of a North Toledo fire station, the city’s fire chief wants to move forward with a new location.

Mr. McNamara said during a news conference that building a new station, which would cost an estimated $3.5 million, would be fiscally irresponsible because the city is facing a deficit.

Repairs to a buckled concrete floor, where fire trucks, which weigh about 45,000 pounds, are parked, could cost less than $200,000, Mr. McNamara said.

Fire Chief Luis Santiago agreed that making repairs would cost less, but it would only be a “Band-Aid.”

“There's no question that $200,000 is less than $3.5 million, but after you’re done with both expenses, where are you at? I have a repaired floor in a building that still has other issues. ... I feel that $200,000 to repair that floor is good money chasing bad, and I have some fiscal reservations about moving in that direction.”

City Councilman D. Michael Collins, chairman of the public safety committee, said he has tentatively scheduled a public hearing on the issue for 6 p.m. Oct. 23 but said that he received word that city administration officials would not be attending.

“I’m very hopeful that the administration will recognize the importance of this meeting and rescind their refusal to participate,” he said.

Mayor Mike Bell on Wednesday issued a directive barring city officials from attending city council-sponsored events after 5 p.m., a decision he based on a conflict with council over increasing pay ranges for top officials.

City administration spokesman Jen Sorgenfrei did not return calls seeking comment.

Mr. McNamara said that leaving Station 3 at 701 Bush St. would show that the city supports the neighborhood and would protect a building that is in a district listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

His positions were supported by Larry Fast, a forensic structural engineer, and Sy Kreais, a neighborhood Block Watch captain.

Mr. Fast said he did a walk-through of the station and described its structure as “very solid,” although he acknowledged that it has rusted support beams and that the floor is buckled.

He estimated repairs would cost less than $100,000.

But moving the station, Chief Santiago said, isn’t just about the needed repairs to the facility.

Because of a Point Place station that was moved and another in the area that was closed, a “standard of cover issue” was created.

The proposed location would replace Jamie Farr pool at 2000 Summit St. Although the site is not definitely set, Chief Santiago said it’s his ideal location.

“That’s my first choice,” he said. “It’s an area that’s conducive to a better standard of cover, it’s land that the city already owns, and it’s got some pretty good space ... [and] it’s situated along some major thoroughfares.”

Crews assigned to Station 3 have been working out of East Toledo's Station 13, 1899 Front St., which is a little more than a mile from their usual home base. The proposed site for the new station is about a mile from the current location.

Chief Santiago said he took Mr. McNamara and Mr. Fast through the station, but said “we didn’t have much of a discussion.”

He said he has not heard from Mr. McNamara about his proposal to fix the station rather than build a new one.

“It’s tough for me to counteract or respond to the positions he has because a detailed conversation of his position and my position has never [been held], and I have to say that’s a bit disheartening,” Chief Santiago said. “I was chosen to be the fire chief and it would be nice to have the fire chief have a say in how the department is going to run.”

For Mr. Kreais, the station at Bush and Erie streets is a morale boost for the neighborhood, where children and firefighters are able to talk and interact.

He also said city officials should have more of an input on the station’s future.

Mr. Kreais and Mr. McNamara said that closing Station 3 would be a sign of the city “turning its back” on the neighborhood and that demolition of the building would be part of the city's “long, dark history” of Toledo's “tear-down mentality.”

Chief Santiago said he and city administrators do not intend to order demolition of the building but hope it can be repurposed into something “compatible with what’s going on in the neighborhood and has good use.”

The chief pointed to a former fire station in Point Place, at 114th and Summit streets, that is now Flags Sales and Repair shop, as an example.

The decision to build a new station, and where to put it, is “data driven, statistically driven,” Chief Santiago said.

“It looks like their crusade seems to be emotionally driven,” the chief added. “I can’t make emotional decisions. I have to have a foundation.”

Contact Taylor Dungjen at: tdungjen@theblade.com or 419-724-6054 or onTwitter @tdungjen_Blade.



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