NEW KNOXVILLE – At the November 10 New Knoxville Village Council meeting, the case was made to renovate the fire station as well as begin long-term plans to update their fire trucks.
A written report and diagram, submitted by New Knoxville Chief Jerry Merges, explained that the fire station, which is part of the village’s administration building in town, is inadequate to house newer equipment the village will need to purchase in the future. The building plans were drawn up by Baumer Construction of Minster.
Mayor Keith Leffel and Village Administrator Larry Kellermeyer, along with Merges, Assistant Chief Jack Leffel, and Capt. Matt Neuman, explained to Council members why they advised an estimated $850,000 renovation of the current structure. They also discussed ways to finance the project.
The renovation would convert the west bay of the existing fire department and add an additional bay to the west. The new bays would be approximately 10” longer, have a 14 foot high overhead doors and have overhead doors at the north and south sides of the building. Newer fire engines need a minimum clearance of 12 feet. The remodel would also renovate and expand the current restrooms to include showers for both men and women so that personnel can decontaminate after fire and medical runs. The renovation would also repair structural problems in the south wall of the town hall.
The fire department personnel also said that there is a need to plan for a periodic replacement of their fire trucks, because two of the engines now being used are 25 years old. Merges pointed out that the new equipment will better equip firefighters to fight fires and need fewer people to operate. Since the current levy only covers operational expenses and not equipment upgrades, a way needs to be found to finance replacement trucks, which can cost between $550,000 to $600,000. Merges suggested that the Village buy one new fire engine now and a second in ten years.
The report also showed that their department, which includes both fire and EMS, responded to a total of 139 runs in 2020, of which 96 were medical responses and 45 other incidents that included structure and field fires, motor vehicle accidents and other calls. They also provided 13 mutual aid calls for other departments and received mutual aid from others 4 times.
Kellermeyer said they intend to send out information in Village electric bills about the impending projects and a survey. The information will explain the process of deciding that renovating the current building was the best way to meet the needs of a modern fire department.
If it is decided that a levy is in needed to fund both the building renovations and the new fire truck, council agreed it was imperative that a timeline be set in the very near future to allow for working with the auditor and board of elections. The discussion last night leaned toward getting a levy on the ballot in the November general elections, although other options are being explored, such as grants, bank loans and private donations.
In other action, council agreed to first readings of ordinances to increase wages for various employees in 2022. This includes wage increases of 3% for all full and part-time village employees. Insurance co-pays are changed to from 15% to 10% for employees and for dependents were reduced from 30% to 25 %. Council member’s compensation went from $650 to $700 annually. Village Solicitor Jason This will have his annual contract renewed with a salary increase from $900 to $1,000. Fire department compensation will go to $9.50 per hour for training sessions as well as runs.
Kellermeyer said the OPWC funding for the second half of the Bremen Street renovation project had been received. He said the Natureworks grant winners would be announced on Monday. The grant is earmarked for a splash pad.
Council also approved a second reading of an ordinance to limit semi-truck traffic to designated village streets.