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TWINSBURG -- Space is getting cramped at Fire Station No. 1, and the city is looking at adding more space.
Fire Chief Tim Morgan says the city has been studying expansion of the fire station at cost of between $3 million and $4 million, a 16,500-square-foot facility that sits next door to Twinsburg Government Center at 10069 Ravenna Road. City officials have also discussed a new standalone structure for the station -- either at Government Center or an annex at a separate site -- at a cost of about $8 million.
"This is a 40-year-old building," Morgan said during a Feb. 21 tour of the facility. "The original design of the building was made with the concept of operations for a part-time station with 40 to 50 employees. Well, we are a full-time building with 40-50 employees, and we've expanded into a second station (on Glenwood Drive)."
Mayor Ted Yates said options include expansion of the current facility; tearing down Fire Station No. 1and rebuilding at Government Center; or building another fire station at a separate site.
"We have a preliminary feasibility study that is looking at the whole building," Yates said.
Yates said that if the city were to construct a third fire station, the city would talk to communities with which Twinsburg has mutual aid agreements, to collaborate on a more regional project.
Council President Gary Sorace, who also sits on the safety committee, agreed that the fire department needed more room, saying that "they have very little room to move in Station 1."
In the administrative area of the Twinsburg Government Center facility, fire officers' desks are in the same room where training and staff meetings occur, Morgan said. This can be a tricky situation if the station's officers have, for example, sensitive personnel issues to discuss.
The health and safety of fire officers is also a concern in the cramped space, Morgan said.
Fire stations operate on the principle of hot zones, areas where firefighters change, decontaminate and dispose of potentially hazardous materials, and cool zones, such as the administrative offices. Ideally, these two zones mix "as little as possible." However, that can be tough when, for example, there are no bathrooms in the garage bay area, where firefighters suit up.
Another problem area is the room where the EMS squad disposes of blood products and potentially contaminated waste. It's the same room where staff does laundry.
"These two really shouldn't be mixing," Morgan said. "They really need their own space."
Another issue is the workout area, which is nestled in the center of the garage bay, surrounded by vehicles, Morgan said. This means that exhaust fumes are getting on the equipment and are breathed in by those working out.
In addition, Morgan said he would like to see more privacy in the dorm areas for the firefighters. Currently, non-officers stay in one room, which is petitioned off with walls.
"Some people need it pitch black to sleep, others like a nightlight," Morgan said. "Some have C-Pap machines, which make a noise. Studies have shown that good sleep improves your health."
Morgan said he also would like to provide more space in the dorms and bathrooms to prevent any co-ed issues down the line. Having separate restrooms and separate dorm rooms would better accommodate both men and women on the staff.
"We haven't had any issues yet," Morgan said. "But I would like to prevent them from coming up."
The safety committee is expected to meet next month to talk about the results of the feasibility study for either expanding the station, or constructing a new one at another site, Morgan said.
Preliminary estimates are that an expansion would cost $3 million to $4 million, and a new structure could cost close to $8 million. There would be associated "soft costs," Morgan said, including setting up utilities. Morgan says design and engineering work could take about a year before shovels hit the dirt.
"It's going to be an expensive project," Morgan said. "But if we do this right, we should be able to function in this building for years to come."