Council hears ordinance for a new Athens fire station

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This map shows where the city of Athens hopes to build a new central fire station.

ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) — A new Athens City Council ordinance  proposed moving the fire department headquarters to a new location.

The current building sits on 61 Columbus Road, just before the Athens Dairy Queen. The ordinance would relocate the department to a location near Stimson Avenue, if passed.

The land is a little more than 10 acres off Stimson Avenue by the roundabout and across from Mill Street Village apartments.

The ordinance involves a recreational area for the community as well. A part of the
acreage is for the fire department, and eight of the 10 acres will be specifically set
aside for recreational space.

The repurposed green space will include a large community room for public
use, indoor and outdoor art displays and plenty of green space for recreational activities
such as golf, soccer and frisbee.

Moving the fire station is needed because the current building is unstable, Athens
Fire Chief Robert Rymer said. The building is beginning to show its age since its construction in 1965. The weight of the equipment, especially the fire trucks, is becoming too much for the building’s foundation to handle. Also, the cost to maintain the repairs continues to grow, he said.

“Since 2005, there has been approximately $575,000 in maintenance like roof repair, support structure keeping the building standing and leak fixing and more repairs that will continue to be ongoing if we stay here,” he said.

This idea began in January of 2021 with a survey from the city of Athens about the relocation. It gauged feedback from the community about the move. A tax levy proposal for relocation arose in November 2021, then six months later, and made the ballot in May and passed.

Deciding where to put the new fire station involved scouting various locations. However, Service Safety director Andrew Stone ultimately chose the Stimson Avenue location because it allows the department to respond more rapidly. There is easy access to the roundabout and the Route 50 and 33 interchange. As a result, the location enables efficient centralized access to help most people.

“Our firefighters are some of the most highly trained rescue technicians in Southeast Ohio and this will allow them to serve the public better,” Stone said.

Fires aren’t the only type of emergency the department responds to. In addition to fires, firefighters respond to situations such as car crashes, building collapses and water rescues.

Athens City firefighter washes truck
Athens fire chief, Robert Rymer, washes the fire truck at the stations’ headquarters. [WOUB]
Additionally, the department serves as a place for firefighters to live. They are typically on duty 48 hours at a time and rely on the building to provide a kitchen, bedrooms, and the standard firehouse.

The new station is a large construction project that needs proper space, Councilmember Jeff Risner said.

“The fire department conducted a survey of where you can actually put a building that large, and still have a decent response time,” he said Councilmember.

The proposed site is owned or leased by Ohio University. If the ordinance passes, the service-safety director will enter into a purchase agreement with the university to acquire it.

The future of the ordinance remains uncertain. It still needs to pass two more readings during upcoming city council meetings.