Taylor Mill discusses ‘functionally obsolete’ firehouse with residents: ‘Something has to be done’

Patricia A. Scheyer
Patricia A. Scheyer
Patricia is a contributor to LINK nky.

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Taylor Mill officials invited residents to come to the city building last week to listen to the commissioners’ opinions on what to do about the conditions at the firehouse.

Mayor Daniel Bell said as the city grows, fire service will be vital, but it’s not clear whether an investment should go toward a new firehouse or toward renovating a dilapidated one. Meanwhile, the commissioners recognized that after Nov. 8, there could be an entirely new commission, and the mayor’s job is also on the line. They know that a decision on a firehouse now could be overturned when and if a new government is in charge.

A committee of residents signed up to help with the decision.

“One of the things I think about is the future of the city,” Bell said. “The city is not going to get smaller, it’s going to get bigger. That building is structurally not sound, that’s been pointed out in every report we have seen. Can it be repaired? I am not sure.”

He said he would rather combine the $2 million allocated to fix the firehouse with $2 million from the city’s reserve funds and build a new firehouse on the land the city purchased years ago next to the city building.

Commissioner Rose Merritt also mentioned the city’s reserves, saying that the city will have $5.97 million in reserves at the end of this fiscal year.

“We are all very conscious that the firehouse needs extensive repairs,” she said. “It was a shock, I believe, probably to everyone that the estimates came in at $7.61 million and $9.23 million. This city cannot afford a $7.6 or $9.2 million firehouse. It’s just reality.”

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City Administrator Brian Haney later clarified the numbers, saying that he writes the budget very conservatively, so the city actually has $8 million in reserves.

“This money belongs to the people of Taylor Mill,” Haney said. “They trust us with the money to make their city safe and better. In my opinion, what could be better to do with the money than providing the city with consistent, professional fire and ambulance service? We should anticipate the future.”

But Merritt said she wasn’t willing to let the city go into debt to build a new firehouse.

“We are spending more than our revenues right now,” Merritt said. “That firehouse needs to be fixed. Period. But I think it can be fixed for a more reasonable price.”

Commissioner Mark Kreimborg agreed with Merritt, but he thought the money should be spent in other ways, such as the streets.

“I don’t want to go back into debt,” Kreimborg said. “That’s my goal.”

Taylor Mill Commission talks about what to do about the firehouse situation at the caucus-turned-special meeting. Photo by Patricia Scheyer | LINK nky contributor

Commissioner Dan Murray explained a process by which they can use one of the bays in good shape to house the firefighters instead of renting trailers, and then they can fix up the front of the firehouse.

He said he regretted that the commission did not pull the trigger 10 years ago when the money for a new city building, firehouse, police and public works was in the bank, and they had the plans for the new complex.

“In all honesty, if we had used our heads, we would all be sitting in a brand new building now,” Murray said. “Well, it would be 10 years old now. We would have had a new police, fire and maintenance in this building, but we don’t want any debt. Other cities went into debt when it was reasonable to do it, and now we are faced with double the construction, material, labor and all that. Something has to be done.”

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Commissioner Caroline Braden said she had been asked why the city doesn’t go with bonds instead of a regular loan.

“The issue to me is not whether we build a $9 million firehouse versus new, or regionalizing,” Braden said. “Residents will pay for any other city providing service for us — it’s not free. There are multiple options, not just two. Between fixing the current firehouse and building a brand new one, there are a whole lot of options. But I feel strongly that we have to take care of the people who take care of us.”

She said when a business is looking for a location, they are less likely to pick a city without its own fire department. She also said that a fire department is not only for fighting fires, but they also provide ambulance service, which saves lives on a daily basis.

During public comment, residents in attendance wanted the city to scrap the plans for the $7 million and $9 million plans put out by the engineers. Residents wanted plans that would show a stripped-down model of what could be done with the money the city has.

Merritt stated that she wanted a vote by the October meeting on whether to build new or fix what the city has. Merritt is not running for commissioner in the upcoming election.

Braden objected and said it might be a better fiscal decision to wait until they see a bare-bones design of each option.

The commission put the task of coming up with pared-down plans to Haney, who said he would have it ready for the October meeting.

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“Villa Hills/Crescent Springs are building a new firehouse, and I talked to the chief of the Fire Authority, so Chief (John) Stager and I are going to visit them next week,” Haney said. “They started planning their new firehouse before COVID, and they estimated the cost at $6 million. Now the cost is $8 million.”

He said he will look at the square footage that is needed for a new building and pare it down so that if the commission goes with the new option, he will be able to put out a request for a quote based on Taylor Mill’s needs.

Haney said he will also take the requirements to fix the existing building and work with those to make sure they have only the costs of what they need in a firehouse.

“With the growth of the city, we will need more space,” Haney said. “The building we have has lasted 50 years. We need a building that has the potential to last another 50 years at least, but with an ever-growing city.”

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