It has been recognized for a long time now that the Hamilton Volunteer Fire Department was outgrowing its accommodations in the historic Fire Hall, located in the downtown area on the corner of 3rd and State streets. Fire Chief Brad Mohn and City Mayor Dominic Farrenkopf are in agreement that the time has come to do something about it. They have come up with a design concept which they are ready to present to the public and to the City Council for review and assessment. It involves the construction a new fire hall on property already owned by the City at Foxfield and Skeels Avenue.
Working with Brandon Lendak of Revival Timeless Design Company, the City staff and Fire Department considered three preliminary designs before whittling it down to a single proposal that they are ready to present to the public for review and comment in preparation for its presentation to the City Council.
According to Chief Mohn, the old fire hall which was constructed in 1910 and has served its purpose for over a hundred years.
“Unfortunately,” he said, “it has served its purpose.” He said the whole city has grown and the fire department along with it. As the years went by more fire trucks were acquired and now the fire hall is packed to the gills. Not only is the number of trucks needed growing the trucks, themselves are growing. They are getting bigger. Mohn said the last few engines that they acquired had to be custom built to fit the tight space in the old building and even then just barely fit. Compounding the situation is the cost of doing the kind of repairs it already needs as well as any sort of improvements.
Another reason to leave the old fire hall behind, he said, is the question of engine exhaust fumes and the lack of ventilation. Mohn said that the National Fire Fighters Association has recognized that firefighters suffer a high incidence rate for contracting lung cancer. He said while there is some risk of exposure to smoke and toxins while fighting fires that there is also documented evidence that over exposure to diesel fumes from the vehicles was also a major factor.
Mayor Farrenkopf said that it made more financial sense to build a new fire hall on property already owned by the city. He said that anyone who has any doubts about the real need for such a move just needs to visit the current fire hall. He called it painfully obvious. He also said that asking volunteers who risk their lives at times for the sake of the community to work in such cramped conditions was not good for morale among volunteers.
“I think these people who are dedicated to providing this kind of essential service to the community should be treated well,” said Farrenfopf. “They should have a totally functional, clean, modern, and safe working environment.”
According to Farrenkopf, the cost of the proposed facility would come close to the $3 million mark. So a lot of thought has been put into funding it. He said that he put together a list of six funding options that some or all may come into play. His plan is to pursue the first five options before trying the sixth, which would be a public bond and higher taxes.
First off, he said, he would be looking for a potential “naming donor.” If someone wanted to donate a very significant amount to the project, the new fire hall could be named after them. Secondly, the City Council could consider using money in the Capital Improvements fund for the project. Farrenkopf said he would also be looking for some significant grant opportunities as well as seeking out local donations. In addition, there is the option of taking out a low interest Intercap loan from the state.
“If we can put all this together and it’s still short of what we need, only then will we go to the voters and seek a bond,” said Farrenkopf.
Farrenkopf said that he believed they had a good design and a good plan for financing and were ready to let the public wade in and help shape the project as it moves forward.
Designs for the new fire hall can be viewed on the city’s web site cityofhamilton.net