Green approves using NEXUS settlement money to fund fire station

When it comes to how to spend the $7.5 million the city received through the NEXUS settlement, there are plenty of differing opinions.

During the March 12 meeting, City Council approved to use $3 million of the settlement money toward the construction of Fire Station No. 3 in Ward 1, which is in the northeast corner of the city. The remainder of the cost will be covered by the General Fund.

The decision comes after much debate and discussion about how much of the settlement money should be used for the project.

When Green Mayor Gerard Neugebauer first proposed using NEXUS settlement funding to fund the construction of the third fire station in December, some residents and members of council raised concerns. Neugebauer, however, has stood by funding the new fire station with NEXUS settlement money and has said it is a good use of the funds. Those opposing using the settlement funds have argued the city has been talking about building a fire station long before the settlement money came along.

During the Feb. 26 city council meeting, Neugebauer proposed using $3 million from the NEXUS settlement fund instead of $4.6 million to fund the new station. He also proposed setting aside $3 million to put toward a fourth station, which would eventually be built in Ward 3 in southwest corner of the city.

Neugebauer and Green Fire Chief Jeff Funai admit there are long response times in both the northeast corner and the southwest corner of the city. Funai said he wants to see those times reduced in both areas.

Funai said one of the driving forces to build the third station in Ward 1 is due to a larger population of people who live in that area. He said the southwest corner of the city has fewer people due to lot sizes being larger.

Residents in Ward 3, in which portions of the NEXUS pipeline run through, have also expressed the need to City Council about lessening response times, including Assistant Green Fire Chief Kevin Groen, who has spoken in front of council several times and supports using the settlement money to fund the fire stations.

Groen added the need for four fire stations is not because of call volumes, but because of response times which can be as long as 10 minutes and 30 seconds in the southwest corner of the city. Funai said 10 percent of the calls in that area is greater than 10 minutes and 30 seconds.

“Those response times just are not acceptable,” Groen said.

Residents in Ward 3 said there are elderly people and plenty of young kids in the ward especially with Camp Y Noah being in the southwest corner of the city.

Green resident Brent Kuwatch added that neighboring Jackson Township has five fire stations and Lake Township has three.

“As a taxpayer, I deserve the same response as any other quadrant in the city,” Kuwatch said.

Councilwoman Barbara Babbitt said she didn’t believe grouping the funding for fire station four in with fire station three was the right thing to do. She said she would like to see separate legislation in regards to the fourth station.

Councilman Justin Speight said the Feb. 26 meeting was the first he heard of the concept of a fourth station and now the urgency has been noted. He said the city should move forward and start allocating funds for its construction.

Councilman Matthew Shaughnessy then asked how fast a study can be completed in regard to station four.

Some residents, however, have suggested the settlement money should be spent in Ward 3 because it saw the largest impact from the pipeline.

Councilman Chris Humphrey disagrees and said the money should be used for the best of all the citizens of the city. He also noted how many pipelines already exist in Green and how people drive over them or near them daily.

Shaughnessy and Councilman Steven Dyer have suggested creating a citizens committee to figure out how to best spend the remaining settlement money.

Humphrey said while he wants to hear from the public, it is not council’s job to pawn the decision on how to spend the money off to the community.

Green resident Kim Hone McMahan suggested the city look into building a satellite station in the southwest corner of the city for now.

Funai said a satellite location is something that could be done, but it is not his recommendation.

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This story was also published in The Suburbanite. www.thesuburbanite.com