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Uhrichsville hopes to expand cramped city building – Times Reporter

UHRICHSVILLE — The city of Uhrichsville has outgrown its half-century-old municipal building.
The police department, with 10 full-time officers, is housed in three cramped rooms — one room for the officers, one for the sergeant and one for the chief.
Officers do interviews in the sergeant’s office.
“It’s not extremely private,” said Officer Elizabeth “Liz” Elmore. “If I’m sitting out here, I can hear what they’re saying in there. A lot of times, I don’t need to know what they’re saying.”
There is only one table to spread out evidence. “If we have a lot of stuff in evidence that we get, it gets overflowed onto the desks,” she said.
Uhrichsville has more drug felony charges per capita than the city of New Philadelphia.
The three cells in the former city jail are used for storage and as an armory for the police department’s weapons.
The situation isn’t much better in the fire department next door.
Firefighters have about 3,800 square feet to store all of their vehicles and as living space for members who staff the station 24/7. A room about 500 square feet in size is used as a dining room, training room and bedroom for firefighters.
The department has 10 full-time firefighters, nine part-time employees and nine paid-per-call volunteers. Four are at the station around the clock.
Because of limited space, firefighters store their gear in the fire bay, where it is exposed to diesel exhaust from the fire trucks. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) has determined that prolonged exposure to diesel exhaust increases the risk of cardiovascular, cardiopulmonary and respiratory disease, and lung cancer.
Chief Justin Edwards said he encourages his staff to wash their gear as much as possible, but that only does so much.
“Most of our full-time and some of our part-time have two sets of gear so all the guys on shift can switch off to a clean set while they’re washing their other set,” he said.
And the fire back is packed full of vehicles.
The department doesn’t have more trucks than it did in the past, but those trucks are much bigger now. “There’s a huge difference between the size of trucks from the ’70s and ’80s versus now,” Edwards said.
In addition, there are now two ambulances parked in the fire bay since the city took on EMS responsibilities. The chief said those ambulances are in and out of the station five or six times a day on average, and sometimes 12 times in one day.
“Could we squeeze a pickup truck in here? Probably,” Edwards said. “But we’ve done that in the past and it created problems — dings and dents and backing incidents. For safety sake, we don’t want to push our luck.”
“They have made the best use of the space available,” Belle Everett, Uhrichsville’s director of city services, said about city safety forces. “However, the city definitely has outgrown this facility, although we don’t want to move elsewhere. We just want to expand and improve on what we have.”
Ground was broken for the building on Oct. 10, 1968, on the site of the old Uhrich Street school building, which the city purchased from the Uhrichsville Board of Education in 1964 for $1. Voters approved a 1-mill, 10-year levy in 1967 to finance construction, which ended up costing $220,000 ($1.6 million in 2022 dollars).
The completed structure was dedicated on April 29, 1970, with U.S. Rep. Wayne Hays as the keynote speaker. Mayor Robert Croniser called the new building “a symbol of faith and progress.”
A half century later, the municipal building is showing its age.
Everett said city officials hopes to use $19,000 in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds to replace the sewer lines to the building because they are rotting.
The fire department has received a $28,000 grant from the Reeves Foundation to put a new surface on the floor in the fire bay. Work on the project is expected to being this week.
Other upgrades are needed as well.
Edwards said he would like to put a drop ceiling in the fire station. The station uses radiant heat, but the heating units are on the ceiling, so the station can sometimes be cold in the winter. “We’d like to put a drop ceiling in with some fans to bring that heat down,” he said.
The city building also needs a new generator. The old one, powered by an Allis-Chalmers engine, was installed soon after the facility opened. It looks like a museum piece.
“It powers just the essentials here, the garage doors, a couple of lights out here in the bay, a few outlets in the police department and the 911 radio equipment. That’s it,” Edwards said.
In case of an emergency situation in Uhrichsville, “We wouldn’t be a warming or cooling or emergency station because we wouldn’t have utilities for ourselves, let alone bring people in here, which is unfortunate,” Everett said.
City officials would like to expand the building outward and upward, by adding a second story. Finding the funding for such an expensive project is a major hurdle.
“We haven’t really explored that,” Everett said. “We first wanted to have a plan, and Thrasher Engineering put something together for us. They gave us an estimate of about $3.1 million to go up and go out. We have a very small parcel here.”
She noted that there aren’t many grants available for government entities for projects like this.
“We’re just going to keep looking,” she said. “In the meantime, we have to preserve this infrastructure. That’s why we’re lining the sewer lines and trying to take the best care of this plot right here. We don’t have anywhere else to go. I don’t even know that there’s a parcel here centrally located.”
Building outside the downtown area is not a good option, she added.
“We know this general vicinity is where the fire department has to be,” Edwards said.

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