A feasibility study conducted for Swancreek Township trustees concluded that an estimated $1.2 million fire substation in the township would improve emergency services for residents.
But Township Trustee Travis Weigel said it’s far too soon to draw up building plans.
At a special Dec. 16 meeting of the trustees, the results of the study conducted by the Ohio Fire Chiefs Association (OFCA) showed that, while costly, a fire substation in Swancreek Township would improve emergency response times and could lower some residents’ insurance rates.
Stan Crosley, a retired fire chief and OFCA member, told those attending the meeting the study included visits to the Delta and Swanton fire stations in Fulton County and the Providence Township fire station in Lucas County, which currently provide emergency service to Swancreek Township. The reviews included information related to equipment, operations, and service demands.
A computer model was created for the study to determine the best location for a township substation, gauging the results by using six, eight, and ten minute travel times for emergency vehicles.
Crosley said the ideal location the study chose – the intersection of County Road C and County Road 4 – would “maximize your coverage for the amount of money you’re going to expend.” A building project at that location would require at least two acres of land.
Crosley said building at that location would also expand the number of township residents living within five miles of a fire station. He said that proximity could mean a 3% to 5% decrease in insurance rates for those residents. But he added that land in that ideal location may not be available.
He said, based on a facility and operational standpoint, a basic 6,000 square foot substation with a full-time crew of three people would be sufficient for the township. “Three would be a reasonable number of people to work and we’ll have that element of safety involved for the firefighters as well,” he said.
But an anticipated construction cost of $1.1 million does not include the $105,000 cost for areas such as site preparation, utilities, and design. Crosley listed a total cost for the project of about $1.2 million.
The study also placed the cost of staffing and operating a fire substation at $504,600 annually. That includes annual operating costs of $42,600 and an annual cost of $462,000 for a full-time three-person staff, including Medicare and payroll taxes.
“It takes a labor-intensive operation,” Crosley said.
The idea of a substation has been discussed for about a year, Weigel said. He said the cost of fire services continues to climb, and “we’re trying to find a way to add a substation to reduce the cost.” Weigel said rising costs can be attributed to a growing trend by fire departments of hiring full-time staff rather than relying on volunteers.
“Volunteer firefighters are becoming a thing of the past,” he said. “It’s harder to get volunteers to sign up, and there’s so much more training these people have to go through to keep their credentials.”
Should a substation ever be built, Swancreek Township would still receive fire services from Delta, Swanton, and Providence Township. Weigel said it’s possible that one or more of those departments could jointly operate the substation with the township.
He cautioned that the feasibility study is being regarded merely as an educational tool. He said any thought of a fire substation is still in the discussion stage.
“The report was just the key to get everyone informed. It was just the first stage,” he said. “As far as anything else, there’s more discussion (necessary) between the trustees and the departments involved. If we go forward with anything, it would be purchasing land for that substation.”
Crosley said building a substation would likely require a bond issue.
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.