Northfield Center hires architect to design new fire station

Jeff Saunders (jsaunders@recordpub.com)
Northfield Center Township is considering building a new fire station to replace its current facility, shown here, on Route 82.

NORTHFIELD CENTER — The township’s longtime Route 82 fire station could be replaced as early as next year, but trustees say some questions first need to be answered.

The Board of Trustees approved the hiring Aug. 17 of West Virginia-based Thrasher Group as a criteria architect for a new station at the site of the township’s service yard off Olde Eight Road between West and East Highland roads.

“It’s in the beginning stage,” said Trustee Rich Reville on Friday. “We’re still not sure whether we can do it in the location that we’re talking about, but we’re going to study, we’re studying up to see what our opportunities are.”

Township Administrator Steve Wright said the Canton-based Thrasher Group, which according to the company’s website has an office in Canton, submitted the second lowest of four bids received at $14,900.

“But they were definitely the most favorable in terms of what they offered for the price,” he said. “In the parlance of procurement, they were the lowest and best.”

He said Thrasher Group will examine the site, figure out the requirements for the building, and if the township moves forward, help it hire a design/build firm to handle putting the building up.

“Our hope is that we’ll work with the criteria architect and come up with our requirements and the design blueprints by the end of November and then hopefully put out the [request for proposals] for the design/build firm in early ’21. The dream would be to have the building up by early fall of ’21.”

Wright added, “We’re looking at potentially a pole barn structure so that will reduce the cost considerably. The estimates right now are between $600,000 and $800,000, but these are just loose estimates.”

Reville called them “speculative.”

“It’s not a fancy building,” he said. “We’re going for the bare basics. We’re looking for functionality more than anything else. We’re not going to build the Taj Mahal.”

Both Reville and Wright said the new fire station could also include administration offices for staff now working out of the Town Hall off Brandywine Road, just south of Route 82. Wright said that the Town Hall, which is more than a century old and has had some issues, would probably still be used for meetings.

The Macedonia Fire Department, which provides fire and EMS coverage to the township under a contract, operates out of the station. The department also uses a station in Sagamore Hills, which the city also has a contract with, near the Valley View Road Township Hall as well as at its Station 1 at City Hall off Valley View Road. Wright said the service yard is a more central location.

Macedonia Fire Chief Brian Ripley said that while he was unsure at first, he is sold on the idea.

“Initially I was like, ‘What?,’ but if you look at a map, it serves all three communities better in that location,” he said. “It better positions us for response times in the entire district. So it’s a huge improvement.”

Wright said there are a variety of other reasons for replacing the current station, which dates to the 1960s.

“The existing fire station is essentially four different structures glommed together rather ineffectively so structurally it’s not where it should be. There’s a lot of systems issues,” said Wright. “It’s not a good structure for them in a lot of ways operationally and otherwise. Kind of the same issues we have at [Town Hall].”

Ripley said he agrees.

“Currently, what we refer to as Station 3, or the Northfield Center public safety building, is in need of some major repairs,” said Ripley. “It served a need for many years, but at this point, it would take a lot of money to get it up to code.”

He added that the building is actually larger than what is really needed.

“There’s a lot of electrical issues within that building,” he said. “There’s roof issues with leaking. They repair it and another leak pops up. It’s just in bad shape.”

Wright and Ripley said the location also offers challenges. Ripley said heavy traffic on Route 82 in front of the station, which is just a little west of the heavily trafficked five points intersection of Route 82 and Olde Eight and Brandywine roads, can make getting emergency vehicles out a little difficult at times.

“That road is marked, very clearly marked, with signage, painted on the road, 'Do not block' and routinely, people block that entire station,” he said.

In addition, said Wright, it is anticipated that the Ohio Department of Transportation will someday widen the road in that area, which could cost the station its front parking lot, forcing the township to expand a rear lot and construct an access drive west to Brandywine.

“[Widening] will completely obliterate the frontage for the existing fire station,” he said.

Ripley said he is happy that the township is looking at constructing a new station.

“We’re very much looking forward to it,” he said. “It’s something the community can be proud of and it’s truly going to enhance the service of everyone in all the communities. It’s going to make our service more efficient.”

Reporter Jeff Saunders can be reached at jsaunders@recordpub.com or @JeffSaunders_RP.