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Published: Wednesday, 8/11/2004

Maumee: City begins search for a new fire station site

BY MEREDITH HEAGNEY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Laura Stead is fed up with her office in Fire Station No. 1 on East William Street.

"It's crowded. Right now I have mice. Stuff doesn't work very well. I just don't have room for anything," the Maumee Fire Division secretary said.

Summing up the feelings of the mayor, city council and the fire department, she said, "We've outgrown it."

Maumee City Council this week approved hiring a company to do a traffic study intended to weigh the efficiency and safety of potential station sites.

The study, to cost $14,300 and be performed by SSOE Inc. of Toledo, will survey an area roughly bound by Kingsbury Street to the west, Gibbs Street to the east, Anthony Wayne Trail to the south, and the railroad tracks that intersect Conant Street to the north. The area at Michigan Avenue and Anthony Wayne Trail will also be surveyed.

John Jezak, city administrator, said it's important to complete a traffic study before approaching property owners.

"We don't [want to] get anybody excited ahead of time," said Mr. Jezak. "There isn't anybody that wants to take anyone's property away from them."

When the study concludes, a council-created ad hoc committee will begin narrowing the city's options. The committee was created in early July when council narrowly voted not to forcibly buy an Illinois Avenue property. Mayor Tim Wagener said the city had been negotiating with owner Norma Smith for more than a year.

Most city-owned land that is available for development, such as the east side of the 200 block of Conant Street, is too small for a station or uncomfortably close to schools or dense residential zones.

"It doesn't belong in a residential area," said Emergency Management Services chief Dan Jankowski . "It's a safety issue and a quality of life issue."

Traffic is a daily struggle, because Conant Street and the Anthony Wayne Trail are often blocked by cars with nowhere to go when emergency vehicles need to come through.

Another problem is that the 44-year-old station wasn't built for men and women to work side-by-side.

"[The six female employees] have no privacy," said Mr. Jankowski. The women share a small bathroom where they keep their uniforms and toiletries. The only shower in the station is in the men's bathroom, which can lead to uncomfortable situations.

"It's an embarrassment," said Mr. Wagener.

Other problems include the building's layout and overcrowding.

The kitchen is only accessible by walking through the men's bathroom and often employees have to climb on bumpers to move between the trucks.

Assistant Fire Chief Walter VanDromme said that the equipment used today is much larger than what was used in 1960 when the station was built.

"They didn't have [hazardous materials] or weapons of mass destruction," to prepare for, he said.

For the 24-hour employees, catching some shut-eye isn't always easy.

The beds, TV and a work desk used for filing reports are all in the same room.

"It's kind of unpleasant," paramedic Shari Mullins said.

Most committee members aren't willing to say what sites are most feasible, but they do know what features they want in a station.

Mr. Wagener said the station must be on the south side of the Conant tracks because there is already a station to the north, on West Dussel Drive.

There is also the possibility of a third, smaller station being built to supplement the two already there.

The committee won't rule out any potential sites, including the current East William Street spot or Norma Smith's property.

"If [Norma Smith and her family] decide to negotiate with us in good faith, it's still a good site," said council member Jenny Barlos.

The committee should have a site proposal for council in September.

For Fire Chief Richard Monto and his department, a change can't come soon enough.

"Anything right now," he said. "We need a fire station."

Contact Meredith Heagney at:

mheagney@theblade.com

or 419-724-6050.



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