Story and photos by Randa Wagner
July 1, 2014
Construction is well underway on Elm Valley Joint Fire District Fire Department’s new station just north of Ashley on U.S. Route 42.
The new structure is replacing the current facility at 3 North Harrison Street in Ashley. A groundbreaking ceremony was held April 22, 2014 at the construction site, with past and present officials in attendance.
Before the roundbreaking ceremony, Fire Board Chairman Bob Davis explained how the project started.
“We purchased the land seven years ago,” said Davis, “and we got serious about it two and half years ago to see whether we could fund it or not.”
A 30-year .97 mil levy passed in 2012 to service a $1.7 million USDA loan for the project. WDC Group, LLC out of Springfield, Ohio is the architect.
The new 12,000 sq ft. building sitting on three acres will feature five bays that can house two vehicles each. A bell is being restored that will be placed in the bell tower, upon completion.
“We planned ahead for the 50 years,” Davis said. “Right now it won’t be full, but that’s okay. When you see the size of the current firehouse, you see why we need more room.”
Water for the facility will come from the Village of Ashley and, “We were fortunate water and sewer were already provided. We’re right at the edge (of the service area).”
Davis said three locations were debated for the new structure, and ‘this is what we settled on.’ The site just north of town allows for easy in and out for emergency vehicles.
Chief Dale Lipps welcomed guests to the groundbreaking which ‘celebrates the visible beginning of a new milestone in the journey of this community’s fire department.’
He introduced Chairman of the Fire Board Davis, who gave a brief history of events leading up to present day.
“Seven years ago we decided we were out of room and needed something new,” he said. “We approached Rodney and Monica Baker about buying the site and finalized that in 2008.”
Worried that citizens may not support a levy, he said the project came to a standstill until about two and a half years ago, when they consulted an architect to determine what a building would cost. The 2012 levy passed and, Davis noted, “We really thank the residents for passing that the first time around.”
He introduced the fire board members Cheryl Friend, Ed Mcurdy (‘just retired but was instrumental’), Jim Hatten, Ed Pittman, Steve Lewis, Art Close, Charles Lynn, Milliard Fisher, Brian Barkley, myself and Rosie Wornstaff and the late Kennith Cline, and Bill Thurston. Other board members are Ashley Mayor Jim Nelson, Helen Caraway, Jym Longstreth, Wayne Lockhart, Elane McFarland and Renee Rarick.
Chief Lipps spoke of the levity of the occasion.
“We’re not just celebrating a groundbreaking for a new building, but it’s the beginning of a new chapter in our story,” he said. “A story that began over 130 years ago when community leaders came together Jan. 1, 1883 to protect their community. The building we’re officially starting here today will be the fourth home for our fire department. It’s very much removed from the days of horses and the livery stable. This new building will allow us to properly house and maintain our equipment and train our firefighters. This new building represents a major investment by our community and confirms their support in the confidence they bestow upon us to serve and protect them.”
He recalled the changes in firefighting over the years.
“Today our firefighters are better equipped with self-contained breathing apparatus, radios, state of the art protective gear and fire apparatus,” he stated. “Mutual aid is just a radio call away. Technology has improved the fire service in many ways. But technology does not meet the basic needs of housing and protecting these investments. This new fire station will provide these basic needs and will provide the basic foundation to allow our department to grow as our community grows. It will become a centerpiece for our community and will sustain us now and for many years in the future.”
He thanked ‘all who made this possible,” including the fire board ‘for their vision and perserverance,’ the community for ‘their continued support for the fire district’, the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture for financing the project, to architects WDC Group, and to “the many contractors and workers that will turn this vision into a reality.”
Lipps intrduced former chief Wayne Lockhart, Mary Carr from the USDA and guest Jim Ullom.
Board members and fire officials posed for ceremonial groundbreaking photos and attendees enjoyd refreshments afterward.
Lisa Schwartz, an estimator for Jay-Car Construction Company, said they have built several fire stations around Ohio.
“This group at Elm Valley is the most deserving group I have ever seen!” she said. “They need this fire station so badly. Their doors are bad and their building is small. Their new building will be a giant asset to them and the community… they really deserve it.”
Schwartz gave a projected date of completion as November or December of 2014. Elm Valley Joint Fire District serves Ashley, Oxford, Peru, and Westfield Townships.
More photos are available with this story online at www.morrowcountysentinel.com.