Tuesday, January 21, 2003

Fire station finally opening

By Anna Guido
Enquirer contributor

As the population continues to soar in West Chester and Liberty townships, so does the need for safety services.

West Chester's new John Road fire station will open Thursday, a few months later than planned, but not too late to mark the winter event with a hot chili luncheon.

The $1.5 million station, which was expected to open in November, replaces an older station that was razed.

Inclement weather and construction problems delayed the new station's opening.

"We didn't care for the quality of the masonry work," Trustee Catherine Stoker said. "It doesn't affect the service of the building, but it wasn't done as expertly as we believed it should have been."

In light of this problem, officials are discussing whether the township should pay full price for the 12,000-square-foot building.

West Chester and Liberty townships are among the fastest growing communities in the Tristate. West Chester's population is about 56,000, compared to 39,703 in 1990. Liberty's is estimated at more than 22,000, up from 9,200 in 1990.

West Chester has five fire stations, including the new John Road station. Liberty has two stations and is building a third on Ohio 747, south of Princeton Road.

Fire and other emergency runs for both departments have increased steadily the past several years, prompting the need to expand existing facilities and build more.

"We've been increasing about 12 percent each year for the past several years, and we were up to 4,800 calls last year," West Chester Fire Chief Jim Detherage said.

West Chester has 152 full- and part-time firefighters and paramedics. A 4.5-mill levy generates about $6.1 million a year for the department.

In Liberty, calls increased about 25 percent a year for five years, then slowed last year to about 12 percent with total calls of 1,465, Fire Chief Paul Stumpf said.

Liberty has two 3-mill fire levies that generate about $2.2 million a year for the department.

Liberty's new fire station will be about 14,000 square feet and will serve as the new headquarters. Construction is set to begin this spring and be completed in 10 months.

Among the new station's features: sleeping quarters for 10, a kitchen, a physical fitness room, built-in training areas and equipment, and a storage area for special apparatus.

The new station will reduce response times to Liberty's southwest quadrant.

"Its location is strategic because it gives us access to (Ohio) 747 and the (Michael A. Fox) highway," Chief Stumpf said. "It's a good location for response to anywhere in the township."

Liberty has 74 full- and part-time firefighters and paramedics.

E-mail annag1129@cs.com

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