Athens looking to buy site for new fire station after lease deal was struck down

Posted on:

< < Back to

ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) — The city of Athens is hoping to purchase property along Stimson Avenue to build a new fire station now that a long-term lease for the land is not an option.

The Stimson property, located just past the roundabout on the way out of town, is owned by Ohio University. The university is open to selling it and negotiations are underway over a price, said Andy Stone, the city’s service safety director.

The city initially planned to lease the property for 40 years, and in return the city was going to lease property on Richland Avenue to the university.

But that proposal was shot down by a state agency, which said state law restricted such leases of university property to 25 years.

City officials are not comfortable with the shorter lease term given that the new fire station would have a life expectancy of about 50 years.

Under the proposed lease deal, the city’s lease payment would have been a fairly small amount, Stone said. Buying the property could cost the city considerably more.

The Stimpson property is valued by the county auditor at $1.3 million, Stone said. He said he’s hoping not to spend that much.

Athens voters in May approved a property tax increase to cover the $9 million in bonds the city plans to issue to build the new station. Money spent buying property would reduce the amount the city has available to fund construction, Stone said.

Any deal to buy the land would have to be approved by the university’s board of trustees and would also require approval from the state.

Stone said he’s hoping an agreement on price can be reached in time for the trustees’ next meeting in mid-August.

Stone also wants to move quickly because the Stimson property, which is adjacent to the Hocking River, will require a lot of fill dirt to raise it above the floodplain. The Ohio Department of Transportation recently began a major rebuild of the Highway 33/50 interchange just a few hundred feet down the street that will generate a lot of dirt the city can get at very low cost, Stone said.

The city wants to build a new main fire station because the existing one on Columbus Road, built in the 1960s, has major structural issues.

The Stimson location is ideal, Stone said, because one of the city’s priorities with a new location is to improve response times.

“There’s nowhere in the city I can build it and get fire trucks faster into the city than at that location,” he said.