Saturn and Galileo

May 9, 2012


Staff Writer

A proposal that resulted in an area fire chief being forced from his post could be getting a second lease on life.

With a brand new 9,600-square-foot township hall opened earlier this year, Berkshire Township officials are looking to sell their old building, and county officials have expressed some interest in purchasing the old facility to be used as an EMS station.

Former chief of the Berkshire, Sunbury, Trenton and Galena (BST&G) fire district Mark Almendinger broached the idea last year, but ruffled the feathers of some of the board members that oversee the joint fire department. After contacting Berkshire Township officials about their interest in selling their old building to the county, Almendinger, a Trenton Township trustee, was asked to step down. He refused and was fired.

But it appears that at least someone was listening to Almendinger’s advice. On Monday, Berkshire Township Trustee Rod Myers attended a Delaware County Board of Commissioners meeting to inquire about the county’s interest in purchasing the old building.

“We’re stuck with a building that we would like the commissioners to entertain looking at the possibility of expanding EMS service,” he told the commissioners.

The county is interested. Administrator Tim Hansley said that there are a handful of other locations in the area being looked at as possible sites for an EMS station, and he expects that within a month he will make a recommendation to the commissioners.

The addition of a medic station in the area would fill what is believed to be the last hole in the county’s EMS coverage and relieve some of the burden on the Sunbury station, which is one of the county’s busiest stations. The Sunbury station is often called on for accidents on Interstate 71 as well as many calls in the U.S. 36/Ohio 37 area.

“Our freeway response right now is fairly delayed,” Hansley said. “We know that’s a gap in our coverage area.”

If the county does purchase the building, it will likely be at least a year before it is fully staffed, Hansley said. The building will require renovations that includes sleeping quarters and a kitchen.

Hansley estimates that those renovations could cost about $200,000.

But the county and Berkshire Township have been in this situation before. Last year, negotiations to purchase the building stalled after both sides failed to agree on a price.

“It’s been kind of a waiting game ever since then,” Hansley said.

The waiting game has proved costly for Berkshire Township. Myers estimates that it is costing the township roughly $1,600 annually to retain ownership of the building and he expects insurance costs to rise in the near future now that it is vacant.

If the county ultimately decides not to purchase the building, Myers said that the township is likely to list it under a realtor to gain more exposure. However, realtor fees could reduce the amount of money that township receives for the building and the property that it sits on.

“We don’t want to give it away,” Myers said. “That’s public dollars that we would like to put to use in another area.”

For Almendinger, the fact that people are trying to bring the proposal to fruition that got him fired is vindication of sorts.

“It’s absolutely the right move and it shouldn’t have taken this long to get done,” he said. “It’s a free resource for taxpayers of the fire district.”