TEMPERANCE - The Bedford Township Fire Commission has recommended that the township board move ahead on buying the former Keane's Auto World on Lewis Avenue to use as a new third fire station.
Fire Chief John Bofia, who chairs the fire commission, said last week that the 5.1-acre parcel is a better site for a proposed third station than the 3-acre site the township purchased more than two years ago across the street.
"There's a lot of site preparation [at the 3-acre Fire Creek site] that we wouldn't have to do [at the 5.1-acre Keanes]," Chief Bofia said. "Budget-wise, we probably wouldn't be able to get a third station quite off the ground [at Fire Creek] as quickly as we would over there."
The cost of the land, which includes a 2,700-square-foot building and a large paved parking lot, is $535,000, according to township officials. The dealership closed its doors in December, although the marquee out front still advertises vehicles for sale. The current owner of the property, located at 7016 Lewis, is listed as Autoway Investors, Ltd., of 6300 Central Ave., in Sylvania Township.
Township trustee Dennis Steinman, who is the township board's liaison to the fire commission, said he agrees that the Keane's site will be cheaper and more cost effective than building a brand new station from scratch on township-owned land across the road.
"We can save several hundred thousand dollars by going over there. There's a half-million in site improvements across the street before you lay the first block on a new fire station," said Mr. Steinman. If the land was purchased, the fire department "could run one of our smaller engines and a rescue squad out of there as it stands right now," with no further renovation necessary.
But Mr. Steinman - who says he "has not been seeing eye-to-eye" with Chief Bofia of late - said he has grave concerns that the fire department may be expanding too fast and spending beyond its means.
Mr. Steinman said that the approximately $820,000 the Mr. Steinman said that the approximately $820,000 the township receives annually from local taxpayers through its 1-mill fire levy will not be enough to pay for all of the capital improvements Chief Bofia laid out this month in the five-year plan included in the department's annual report to the township board.
That plan calls for the township to plan "for existing fire station replacement" and construction of a third station this year; replacing two transport units next year, and purchasing a new engine and "replacing or remodeling one of the existing stations" in 2007.
It also calls for replacing or remodeling the other station in 2008, and replacing the township's largest piece of equipment, its 75-foot aerial truck with a much larger 105-foot aerial truck in 2009.
While no cost estimates were included in the report, Mr. Steinman said he personally estimated their combined price at several million dollars more than what the township would take in and is already spending in salaries for its 70-person department.
The only way to make the money work, Mr. Steinman contends, is an agreement that would call for the township to either sell the former Fire Creek site or purchase it from the general fund, thereby repaying the $350,000 investment put into it from the fire millage funds.
But Chief Bofia said his cost estimates and those done for him by the township's budget director come out differently than Mr. Steinman's do.
He said if money becomes an issue, the department can delay some capital projects to make it work.
"I'm confident we can afford it [without asking for more tax money]," the Chief said.
"There was some poor planning done a while back. When the money first started coming in, they went out and bought all new equipment, which is great. But that means that the equipment all wears out and needs to be replaced at the same time. So that's what we're dealing with."
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