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October 5, 2012

NASH: Is moving firehouse in our best interest?

NEW ALBANY — A few weeks ago at a New Albany City Council meeting it was announced that a party was interested in purchasing the property that is the current location of the Green Valley Road firehouse. It took many people by surprise including neighbors, concerned citizens, and even members of the council. I personally have no problem with the moving of the fire station as long as it is a good deal and is in the best interest of citizens of New Albany.

The first question that came to my mind when I heard about the plan was could fire trucks maneuver down the narrow lane that leads to the former Camille Wright Pool property where the firehouse is suppose to move and safely turn onto Daisy Lane. I remember that road very well having walked up and down it many times on my way to the pool when it was open. I remember jumping from the road onto the grass in order to let someone pass by as they were making their way to the former swimming pool. 

Daisy Lane can get very busy especially when church or school is being let out. Traffic patterns have never been good there and we need to know if the current infrastructure can support the addition of the new firehouse. I know that some improvements have been made to the road in that area, but still believe that some of these questions need to be answered.

Officials claimed that the new location under consideration would give quicker access to Interstate 265. I know absolutely nothing about the fire departments coverage area or about maneuvering a fire truck through traffic, but to me it seems like it would be much easier to get onto I-265 coming from State Street instead of by Daisy Lane, especially in heavy traffic. At least cars entering the highway can see and hear you coming down State Street, if you are coming from Daisy Lane and turning the corner you would not be seen and people would not be able to get out of the way as quickly.

When the idea of moving the Green Valley Road fire station was announced to the council, First District City Councilman Dan Coffey suggested that a study be done to determine where fire stations should be placed. I believe that the whole town needs to be evaluated and the best possible location picked. If we find ourselves needing to move a firehouse for any reason, we should put it in the best possible place. We shouldn’t just be building a firehouse on property we already own because it is cheaper. 

It hasn’t been too many years ago that another perfectly good firehouse was torn down. The firehouse on Main Street at 10th Street was torn down in order to make way for improvements to the Waste Water Treatment Plant that serves New Albany. At the time it was torn down it had been open for less than 30 years. The Green Valley firehouse has been open just about 20 years and is the second newest to the one that was built on Spring Street to replace the Main Street firehouse. The decision on where we place the next firehouse should take into consideration the needs of our community now and for the next 50 years. Tearing down and building new firehouses every 10 years or so is no way to run a city.

This week the administration took the issue to the Board of Zoning appeals where it received approval with a 4-1 vote. It was reported that no one from the public that was allowed to speak on the item talked favorably for the firehouse. I do not understand the need for zoning rules if every time you want to build something that goes against current zoning, you automatically get approval. 

What is the point in living in a neighborhood that is zoned residential if someone wants an exception or zoning change to build a doctor’s office or a firehouse, all you have to do is ask. Over the last few years there have been several developments planned in areas that were not zoned for the property in question, yet they easily received approval. Why do we even have any laws on zoning if every exception will just get a rubber stamped approval?

Over the last several years there has been a lot of talk about the fire department because of the budget shortfalls in the past. We need to give the fire department the tools so they can do their jobs as efficiently as possible without compromising the health and welfare of all of New Albany citizens. If someone would like to purchase the property that is the current home to a New Albany firehouse, our city needs to be compensated properly so that the firehouse can be replaced appropriately, not just moved to the place that seems the most convenient. 

Maybe the Daisy Lane location is a better than Green Valley Road for a firehouse but we need to ask ourselves, is it the best place to put a new firehouse?

Matthew Nash can be reached at dmatthewnash @gmail.com.

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