WEST ALEXANDRIA — During an emergency meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 5, West Alexandria Village Council officially voted to suspend all current plans for the construction of a Fire/EMS Building, while keeping a related tax levy in effect.
Council members reasoned, there is a building in town which is 33,000 square feet and if the village can purchase it for a fair price, the building can be renovated to house all village offices.
However, Mayor Carol Lunsford and Clerk-Treasurer Wendy Chesney noted, council will have to look into whether the levy funds can be used for that purpose.
In March 2016, the Village of West Alexandria voted to approve an income tax levy for the construction of a new fire and EMS building, as it was marketed to the public.
In actuality, the levy was worded in a way that it could be considered a general operating levy, according to some.
The ballot language follows, “An additional tax for the benefit of the Village of West Alexandria for the purpose of providing and maintaining fire apparatus, appliances, buildings, or sites there for, or sources of water supply and materials there for, or the establishment and maintenance of lines of fire alarm telegraph, or the payment of firefighting companies or permanent, part-time, or volunteer firefighting, emergency medical service, administrative, or communications personnel to operate the same, including the payment of any employer contributions required for such personnel under section 145.48 or 742.34 of the Revised Code, or the purchase of ambulance equipment, or the provision of ambulance, paramedic, or other emergency medical services operated by a fire department or fire fighting company at a rate not exceeding 3 mills for each one dollar of valuation, which amounts to $0.30 for each one hundred dollars of valuation, for continuing period of time, commencing in 2016, first due in calendar year 2017.”
This levy is slated to raise $55,000 a year, which has already begun to accumulate. Some of that money has already been utilized to pay for plans for the building construction.
In November 2018, council voted to submit an application in the amount of $1.5 million to the USDA for funds to construct the West Alexandria Fire and EMS Building. However, due to various circumstances — like the government shutdown — the Village of West Alexandria did not meet the deadline for the application.
“The requirement to move forward prior to the year end was based on agreements that property would have been transferred over by the Fire Association. Then, the fact that all that was down to the last minute, with the government shutdown and the holiday schedule, [USDA] said they would focus their time on municipalities and groups that had done their part to meet deadlines and time lines,” Chesney said.
“The USDA wasn’t going to be expected to work all hours of the day and evenings on Dec. 28 or Dec. 31 to put in an application, when they didn’t even have all the information that they needed from us paper-wise.”
Since the application was not processed by the year’s end, the village was not locked into a previously agreed-upon interest rate.
The emergency meeting was called to decide the next steps for the construction of the fire/EMS building.
Council member Doug Crouse made a motion to suspend current proposals of construction of the fire/EMS building project. The motion passed 4-2, with council members Shannon Smith and Jerry Carter voting against.
Crouse made a second motion to terminate the contract with WDC Group regarding the fire/EMS building project. The motion passed unanimously.
Council member Jeff Hickey made a motion to cancel the loan application process with USDA regarding the fire/EMS project. The motion passed unanimously.
“There is a viable option that nobody knew about. That is the building on the north side of U.S. 35. It is 33,000 square feet, four times the size of the building we want to build here. Nobody knows what that building can be bought for. [Council member] Ray Waldeck has done a lot of work on it, retrofitting it to something that can work for the village. That building would work for everything in that village — I’m talking sewer, water, fire, police, everything,” Crouse said.
“There is a viable option. I don’t know whether it will work, we haven’t put pen and pencil to the dollar figures and I don’t know what it can be bought for. If it could be bought for a reasonable price, you get into retrofitting it, you can sell [the EMS building] and the Fire Station, you can put everything in that one building and be good for 50 years, I would think.”
Hickey made a motion to plan a work session to discuss the next steps and looking in to the total estimated cost of a project to purchase and utilize the building located at 119 E. Dayton Street, West Alexandria, for all village departments.
Council planned the work session for Tuesday, Feb. 12, at 6 p.m. The meeting will begin at 119 E. Dayton Street to look at the proposed building, before moving back to the EMS Building for the work session.
“I think we need to do this slowly and be very methodical about it, because we need to have all our ducks in a row and council needs to be in charge of this. Period,” council member Holly Robbins said. “If we have a meeting, all of us are at the meeting, not just two or three of us. All of us.”
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH