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Belmont Village Council votes against purchasing land for new fire house

Staff Writer
Barnesville Enterprise

BELMONT — Village Council met in special session on June 24 and Mayor Ron Woods asked permission to reopen the gym. He said the gym would be sanitized after each rental and renters would need to abide by CDC guidelines. The limit on the gym is 50 people. Dan Scott made a motion to open the gym rentals with the above stipulations, seconded by Derek Cain. Motion passed. 

Fire Chief Bob Mills gave a presentation on the property that the fire department would like to purchase for a future site of a new fire house. Kaye Hall and Bob Mills spoke to the owner and negotiated a sale price of $86,000 before COVID happened. Mills said the firehouse was built in the 1800s and has a wall that is bowed out and is eventually going to fall. He discussed having zones for firemen to decontaminate after responding to a fire. He said there is currently not a clean zone in the firehouse. The fire department is not looking to increase the fire levy and are working to find grant money. The department would like to prepare for the future. Mills said he has been a fireman for nearly 30 years and 25 of them were all volunteer years of service. Mills said he gets paid $150 a month to be the fire chief.

A resident asked why the fire department sold the property adjacent to the fire house several years ago. Mills said the village installed water and sewer lines down the center of it that made it unusable. The property was sold and new hose for the fire truck was purchased. The resident asked if it was cheaper to repair the firehouse or build a new one. The resident said the fire department only responds to 1/3 of their calls. Mills showed them the revenue records for last month.

A resident asked why we could not build on the school property. Dan Scott said they have to first get the school torn down and that the location is not on a main route and would be difficult to get equipment in and out of. Another resident had a concern about a new firehouse being built in their back yard and was concerned about traffic past their house. Scott said the plans for the school property are to create a green space and a park area for the residents. Another resident suggested placing a new firehouse outside of Belmont on SR 147 where it is near a main road. Mills said in 10-15 years the fire department will be a paid department and not volunteer as it is hard to get volunteers.

A resident said the fire department used to be very active and that she has respect for all of those who volunteer. But the resident asked if we are using money wisely to make such a purchase and plan for a new firehouse when we can’t get people to work for the department. Mills showed the lady what it costs to operate a neighboring fire district. Mills discussed the mandates that the state has put into place that discourages new firemen to apply and go through the school. He said he would look at the idea of connecting the planned road to a new firehouse. Mills said it is something we should discuss as we don’t want a racetrack or people taking shortcuts into town.

Solicitor TJ Schultz and Fiscal Officer Burkhead both expressed concerns of renting a house to a tenant. Schultz is going to research the issue and Burkhead is going to check with the auditor’s office.

Mills said they will eventually have to retain an engineer to draw up plans.

Mayor Woods explained to the audience that they are only discussing the purchase of property, not constructing a new firehouse. Hall said the land owner is expecting a decision on the purchase of the property soon. Mayor Woods said he was concerned about the fire department renting the house to a tenant but the decision is up to council.

Shaun Bruce suggested that a one-year notice to the renters be put into any decision if we were to ever sell or remove the house.

Bruce made a motion to proceed with purchasing the property for $86,000, seconded by Dan Scott. Council’s vote ended in a tie. Mayor Woods broke with tie with a vote against the matter.