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City eyes new fire station

By Sara McManamy-Johnson sjohnson@lebanondemocrat.com • Dec 17, 2015 at 6:16 PM

Lebanon may soon have a new fire station.

City officials are looking to build what would be Station Four behind the Wendy’s Restaurant near the intersection of Highway 109 and Eastgate Boulevard.

“This is probably something that should have happened four or five years ago,” said Lebanon fire Chief Chris Dowell during Tuesday’s budget work session with city council.

According to Dowell, that area---which includes large industrial facilities such as Amazon, Bridgestone and Starbucks and residential subdivisions such as Stonegate---is one of high need. 

“There’ve been complaints, not only from Stonebridge, but also other entities down there in Eastgate,” said Dowell.

He said he believes the lack of a nearby fire station has somewhat stalled the growth in that area.

“It’s just their insurance rate is so high that people are not coming,” said Dowell. “Warehouses are empty down that way, and I still think that once we build this station, that you’ll see a big jump in growth down that way.”

Insurance Service Office, or ISO, ratings are based on the distance and response time, among other factors, for a fire department to respond to a particular location. An ISO of 5 is generally considered acceptable, where as an ISO of 10 is considered to have no fire protection.

A property owner in an area with a poor ISO rating, or one between 6 and 10, will pay higher property insurance rates than a property owner in an area with an ISO rating of 5 or lower.

An ISO rating can generally be equated to the distance between the property and the closest fire station.

“People don’t want to pay high insurance,” said Dowell. “They don’t want to come in here and pay high insurance, and on top of that they’ve got to pay all their taxes; they’ve got to pay their employees and all that. This is just one cog to maybe take some of that burden off of them.”

And Lebanon City Council seems to agree it’s time.

Mayor Philip Craighead’s proposed budget for the 2014-2015 fiscal year allocates about $1.49 million to finally build a new fire station.

During budget discussions, Dowell explained the need and councilors reacted favorably, indicating it stands a good chance of making its way into the final budget.

In addition to the construction costs for the station, the proposed budget includes $74,750 for engineering and design and an extra $8,600 for four sets of turnout gear.

Robert Springer, the city’s commissioner of finance and revenues, suggested loaning the money from the gas department to the general fund to pay for the project.

State law allows cities to make loans from their enterprise funds to general funds, but those loans must be approved by the state and must be subject to interest.

Springer explained that city could loan the money between funds at a rate of 1 percent---which is lower than the city could borrow from anywhere else, but considerably higher than the money is currently drawing in a savings account.

“Right now that money is bringing 0.01 percent,” said Springer. “0.75 to 1 percent is anywhere from 75 to 100 percent what it is earning right now...Everybody’s winning.”

If the city ultimately passes a budget that includes funding for the new station, Dowell said he’s prepared to start the process immediately.

“When they pass the budget, the next day I’m ready to get going,” said Dowell.

The city already owns the land it would be built on, and the ground is already level. Dowell also said the city would use the plans used to build Station Two, but on a slightly larger scale.

If the city passes the budget in July, Dowell anticipates at least a few months to bid out the construction jobs and for council to review those and give final approval.

“Maybe if we’re lucky, I’m going to say it’s probably going to be somewhere in the neighborhood of October or November [of this year] before they start breaking ground,” said Dowell.

He said actual construction time would likely take 14-15 months, placing the station’s opening date somewhere in the first quarter of 2016.

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