West Jeff council says “no” to donating land for fire station

(Posted on Oct. 20, 2020)

By Josephine Birdsell, Staff Writer

The Jefferson Township Fire Department is looking to expand as it outgrows its current station at 745 W. Main St. in West Jefferson.

The department asked village leaders to donate two acres of village-owned land at 177 S. Frey Ave. for the purpose of building a new fire station. On Oct. 19, village council members unanimously denied the request.

The village purchased the land using funds from the parks and recreation department and plans to expand its park system on the property in 2021, said Mike Conway, council member.

Despite the denial of the land donation, village leaders still need to assist the fire department, said Mayor Ray Martin.

“We need to help the fire department out,” he said. “We’ve been trying to come up with something (to help them) since I’ve been mayor.”

The existing fire station was built in 1981 when the department was all volunteer. Since then, the department has moved to full-time staffing and has outgrown the building. The station is at maximum capacity for the number of firefighters it can house, and the property is landlocked, preventing building expansion.

As West Jefferson’s population grows, the fire department needs to expand to respond to potential need and be prepared to protect residents, said Fire Chief Chris Snyder.

“We’re looking for a new facility that will take us out another 40 years through the growth of the township,” he said.

The department is considering all options for expansion.

“The issue we’re trying to resolve is not going away,” Snyder said.

In other action on Oct. 19, council approved the purchase of $67,048 in equipment and gear for the police department.

The department will use $29,114 for body cameras, $21,899 for protective gear, and $16,035 for a speed alert trailer speedometer.

Federal funds provided through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES) will cover the cost of the protective gear and speedometer. CARES funding also will be used to cover the body cameras if the act’s spending regulations allow it.

While Columbus city council was met with protests in favor of defunding their police department this summer, West Jefferson saw no similar concerns, Martin said.

“We haven’t had problems in the past, so we’re not preparing for the worst (by buying new equipment),” he said.

Council hopes the speedometer will deter speeding off of Route 40 coming into the village, Martin said.

The body cameras provide safety for both village officers and residents, he added.

“With today’s society, we need proof of everything,” he explained.

The village plans to buy and install all of the equipment by the end of the year.

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