Athens prepares to buy land for new fire station, which could be completed by the end of next year

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ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) — If all goes according to plan, a new Athens fire station on Stimson Avenue could be ready for move-in by the end of next year.

An athens fire truck
[WOUB File Photo]
First, the city has to buy the land, which is owned by Ohio University. The city first tried to lease the property, which is adjacent to the Hocking River, just past the Stimson roundabout on the north side.

But that lease proposal was shot down by a state agency that has to approve such things.

Last week, Ohio University’s board of trustees agreed to sell the property to the city. It’s about 10.6 acres, and under the terms set by the university, the city could develop up to three of those acres.

The city also would be required to maintain about six acres as green space and to lease back to the university up to one acre at a cost of $1 per year for the university to build a police station if it decides to at some point.

The university’s police station is now at The Ridges but might have to move if portions of The Ridges get redeveloped for other uses, which is something the university is actively pursuing.

The multiple restrictions the university wants to include with the sale may benefit the city in one important way. Andy Stone, the city’s service safety director, said at Monday’s City Council meeting that deed restrictions on the use of property decrease its value.

“It actually is in the city’s favor that the university is being so restrictive in the way that they would transfer this property,” Stone said.

A preliminary appraisal of the property put the value at $350,000 to $550,000, Stone said. But that did not factor in the restrictions. The city will now get a full appraisal, and Stone said he anticipates the value will come in lower.

The purchase has to be approved by the City Council and an ordinance to that effect is expected to get its first reading at the council meeting next Monday.

The money to buy the property and build the new fire station comes from an increase in the local income tax approved by Athens voters in May. The city issued bonds to finance the new station and will use the tax increase to pay them back.

The new fire station will replace the existing one on Columbus Road, which was built in the 1960s and is now literally falling apart. City officials, including the fire chief, like the Stimson location because it’s just down the road from the Highway 50/33 interchange, providing easy access to much of the city.

If everything falls into place, the city should be able to start work on the new fire station property in October, Stone said. The location is in a flood plain and the first step will be to haul in tons of fill dirt to raise it up.

The timing is good because much of this dirt will come from the work being done right now on the interchange by the Ohio Department of Transportation.

There are also signs that the hot construction market is starting to cool, Stone said, and this might ease some of the supply chain bottlenecks that have impacted the availability of construction materials and driven up costs.

Stone said his goal is to move firefighters into the new fire station by December 2023 or January 2024.