The City of London is looking into purchasing a state-owned property on the outskirts of town to use as the new base for the street department.
The five-acre property, located at 1460 U.S. Route 42, was utilized by the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) as one of its Madison County garages until last November, when crews moved to combine with ODOT’s West Jefferson outpost.
The property would be a perfect fit for the city’s street department needs as well as free up needed space for the London Fire Department, according to Steve Hume, the city’s safety-services director.
“It is an asset. I know private contractors have looked at it,” Hume said. “If the city doesn’t take it, ODOT will put it up for auction and a private construction company will be more than happy to jump on it.”
Currently, the street and fire departments share a building at 103 E. High St. Both departments are cramped in the facility, which was formerly an auto dealer, Hume said.
The state first proposed the sale to the city when ODOT’s move took place last year. The city initially expressed interest, but there was confusion as to which entity held the title on the property. Those details have since been worked out, Hume said.
The Madison County Auditor’s Office had the property appraised at $542,000, but the state is evaluating its asking price on a market value of about $300,000, Hume said.
Because the state would save on various expenses if the city purchased the property, officials are looking at a price of about $250,000, Hume said. No final figure has been agreed upon, he added.
The state has also offered to finance the sale with a zero percent interest loan for 5 to 10 years, he said.
The property boasts underground fuel tanks for convenient fueling, as well as various lifts.
“Truly, it is a building designed for road maintenance,” Hume said.
The biggest con to the property is that it’s located just outside of city limits, Hume said. Should the sale be approved by London City Council, the property would be annexed into the city.
The topic has been discussed with council during executive sessions, Hume said, and it will likely be discussed at a full council meeting in the future.
Three to four council members have toured the property, he said.
Hume described council’s response as “mixed,” but said Nate Ernst, street superintendent, is “100 percent for it.”
“We believe it will make the street department more efficient,” Hume said. “Right now we have stuff stored at six different locations. Before you can figure out how to get to some place, you’ve got to figure out where to go to get what you need.”
London Fire Chief Todd Eades is a proponent of the move, which would double the fire department’s space from 6,600 square feet to about 13,000.
“There are a lot of benefits to us being able to expand at that location,” Eades said. “I’m starving for space as it is.”
The fire department needs space to expand its bathroom facilities. Currently, there are six people working at a time sharing one shower — something that’s a problem when firefighters are returning from hazardous situations.
Other needs include a compartmentalized area for sleeping arrangements (modern fire houses no longer use communal living areas, but more dorm-like spaces), space to place a turnout gear extractor (essentially a high-powered, specialized washing machine for fire gear), and an area with high ceilings so that maintenance can be performed on the vehicles inside.
There is grant money available to fire departments for renovations, Eades said.
He said he sees the move as a win-win.
“You’re putting the street department in an appropriate, purpose-designed facility. I’d love to have a new fire house, but I also know the fiscal limitations with that,” he said. “If we inherit that side, we can do the things we need to do and it wouldn’t be as dramatic of a cost for us.”
Reach Andrea McKinney at 740-852-1616, ext. 1619, and on Twitter @AndeeWrites.
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