Clay Township working to build new Fire Station 44
By Pete Smith
After listening to a presentation from Carmel Fire Chief Matt Hoffman, the members of the Clay Township Board appear motivated to rebuilding an eastside fire station.
Station 44, at 5032 E. Main Street and across the street from the Carmel school administration building, was built in 1980.
“It was built to house three to four guys. Now we have 18 people working out of that station, six per shift; plus more equipment,” said Clay Township Trustee Doug Callahan. “Even when I was there seven years ago, it was tight.”
Hoffman agreed, making it his No. 1 spending priority in the presentation. The others were a new fire training center, a place for improved fleet maintenance, a dedicated Carmel emergency operations center and a new Fire Station 43 at 3242 E. 106th Street.
According to board member Mary Eckhard, all of the firehouses in Carmel are connected through an interlocal agreement between the township and the city. And the township could soon have money to spend on improvements for the fire department.
It will soon pay off a bond used to build two fire stations in west Carmel, and by bonding for new construction at similar terms, board members hope there will be no change in tax rates.
The current tax rate of 0.0074 per $100 of assessed value translates to approximately $17 in taxes per year for a house valued at $400,000. With a 20-year bond, township accountants expect the rate to remain flat and give the township about $5.8 million to spend from a total bond of $6.1 million.
Recent firehouses in Carmel cost about $2.5 million apiece with a land purchase. But rebuilding Station 44 wouldn’t require a land purchase, more of a land lease. That’s because everyone involved would like to rebuild the station at its current location – the issue is just what to do during a 9 to 12 month construction time.
Fire department leaders and township board president Paul Bolin said they plan to reach out to Carmel schools officials in the weeks to come to talk about the possibility of relocating the engines and staff temporarily to an area across the street. School officials had not heard from the fire department by press time.
Board member Matt Snyder said it was important to accomplish the task by bonding without raising taxes and by making sure the funds were used effectively.
“We’ll make it work,” said Hoffman at the meeting. “We’re not looking to build Taj Mahals.”
Carmel City Councilor Sue Finkam said she’s appreciative of the township’s support.
“Our ability to provide a safe community correlates to our ability to recruit and retain talent,” she said in regards to public safety workers, who she wouldn’t want to hesitate in an emergency situation due to concerns about inadequate equipment or training.
“A training and maintenance center would be a fantastic addition,” she said.
Hoffman had discussed the possibility of locating a combined training, maintenance and emergency operations center on land the city owns on the southeast corner of 106th Street and Gray Road and north of a mine where its fire training exercises wouldn’t disturb anyone. It currently trains in the former Woods Wire factory in the heart of Carmel.
“This is our responsibility,” Bolin said. “We’ll take a look at this and find a way to make it work.”
The ideas will likely be discussed again at the next township board meeting on April 22.