SIDNEY — The Sidney City Council recently authorized City Manager Andrew Bowsher to enter into a contract with Freytag & Associates, Inc. for a new project to build two new firehouses in Sidney.
Freytag & Associates is a local architecture firm that has done multiple projects for the city, including Station One for the Department of Fire and Emergency Services. According to Bowsher and Fire Chief Chad Hollinger, Freytag has been contracted for the design and engineering of a new Station Two building and a completely new third station to help better serve the community on the northern end of Sidney.
Station Three will be added to the city on Wapakoneta Avenue in an effort to increase the department’s presence on the northern end of the city and to improve the department’s response times to that side of Sidney.
Station Two will be completely rebuilt on the land adjacent to the building an will be front facing on Campbell Street. The replacement of Station Two is necessary because due to ever-developing vehicles used by fire departments, the building is no longer suitable for housing a fire and EMS station.
Newer fire and EMS vehicles are taller and because of the HVAC system on the ceiling within the station, the department has to be conscious of the height of any vehicles they may need to procure for the city. Currently there is no set-in-stone plan for future use of the Station Two building once the new one is built. However, Bowsher did state the building could potentially be used as storage for other city departments such as the police department’s Expanded Ranger Program and tactical teams.
“We’ll have a station that allows for, not just the vehicles being manufactured today, but again taking into account what the future holds,” said Hollinger.
The building plans for Stations Two and Three will be mirror images of one another. According to Bowsher and Hollinger, having the two stations be mirror images of each other will help save on engineering and construction costs as well as make transitions between the two stations easier for members of the department.
“When you look at building a structure like this, whether it’s a city hall or police department or fire department, we’re generally trying to forecast out 50 years plus into the future what our needs might be for that building. So we’re going to be working with Freytag to make sure that we take into account those potential needs that we may have 50 years in the future when I’m long retired and the city manager’s retired and there’s different people in these positions, they still have a product that is going to be valuable and serviceable for the community. It’s going to be built within reason, but big enough for some expansion that may happen over the next five decades of the life of that building,” said Hollinger.
Some of the updated aspects the department is planning to include in the build of these two stations as a way to forecast future needs include a big consideration of occupational cancer for fire fighters. Fire fighters are constantly exposed to carcinogens in diesel emissions from their trucks and from the carcinogens found in smoke and residue from fires. As a way to help with avoiding carcinogens, the city and Hollinger want to include an exhaust system that will pull the diesel emissions from their vehicles out of the building and away from the gear they routinely wear to respond to fires and other emergencies.
Also to help reduce the risk of cancer in fire fighters, they plan to include a decontamination phase area in the new stations that will allow fire fighters to clean their gear and uniforms and shower before entering into the living areas of the fire houses. The hope is that the decontamination areas will maintain separation of, what Hollinger refers to as, hot, warm and cold zones. A hot zone would be an area like the garage or engine bay where vehicles are kept. A warm zone refers to the decontamination areas and the cold zone refers to the living areas where there should be no carcinogens found.
“Another key design element that we’re going to be looking at in the buildings is focusing on the mental health aspect of what emergency services does and providing quiet spaces or a place away from the noise and the business to where fire fighters can decompress, de-fragment and just kind of get their thoughts back,” said Hollinger.
Along with aspects relating to mental health, the new stations will include a slow-rise alarm in the sleep quarters to allow fire fighters and EMS personnel to acclimate and slowly wake to alertness during an alarm as compared to the traditional full-volume alarm that jars individuals awake.
The new stations will also have a more open design concept for the living and kitchen areas to allow firefighters and EMS to embrace the “family mentality” of the crew.
There is a possibility that by the end of this year, the department may be hiring six individuals. The department has put together a grant package with the help of Ohio First Responder Grants to submit a grant application for six people to SAFER, Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant program. Hollinger is optimistic that the department will be awarded the grant which will provide government funds for the salaries and benefits for three years for the six individuals.
“The idea being that we do this methodically and financially stable over the course of several years as we sort of grow out the fire department and EMS for where we need to be in the future,” said Bowsher.
Hollinger hopes that during the three years that SAFER, if awarded, would fund the six salaries that the growth of the city will be able to provide additional tax revenue so that it is unlikely that the department will need to go out with levies to continue financing the growth of the fire department.
According to Bowsher, the project will be funded with municipal bonds for $5 to $6 million per station.
“We’ll go out with municipal bonds. We’ve got a couple of bonds that are falling off from previous builds, like the police station we built some 25 years ago. Those have now fallen off, we’ve increased bond capacity because of how well Sidney has done this past couple of years. So, we figured we’re in a good position for us to be able to go back out and take those,” said Bowsher.
The project is set to start as soon as possible. According to Bowsher and Hollinger, the engineering is expected to be completed by the end of this year and construction is expected to start in 2024-25.