MAXWELL — There will come a day when the tinkling of the bell on the front door of Raman Sethi’s shop will occasionally be drowned out by the roar of firetrucks and ambulance sirens.
He knows the day is coming when the Greenfield Fire Territory will build its third fire station on the vacant plot of land that currently sits across the street from Sethi’s Mom and Pop Mini Mart.
But he said he won’t mind the distraction or minor inconvenience — one that will bring a little peace of mind to his friends and neighbors as fire officials take steps to fulfill a promise dating back almost a decade.
The majority of the township’s residents live in Greenfield, and as the area grows, fire officials worry the two fire stations located there won’t have the manpower to cover the township’s less-populated northern edge. Those concerns prompted the purchase of land in Maxwell that will one day house a new fire station.
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In 2008, the city of Greenfield and Center Township formed the Greenfield Fire Territory — raising the fee residents outside Greenfield city limits paid for fire service from 5 cents per $100 of assessed value ($75 for a $150,000 house) to 24 cents ($360 for the same home) annually — with the understanding that eventually, Center Township residents would have their own fire station.
Last fall, township leaders spent about $25,000 for a 3-acre plot of land in the 200 block of Main Street in Maxwell, where that station will one day sit. Board members say they don’t anticipate breaking ground on the new station for at least five years, and there are no estimates for the cost of the building, but they want to have the land ready when the time comes.
For neighbors who have seen higher tax bills for years, that construction can’t come soon enough.
Don Houk, who lives in Center Township, was pleased to hear local leaders are following through on their promise, but he wonders about the construction timeline and how much the building will cost.
It’s been more than eight years since he and his neighbors were first brought into the territory. He wonders if it will be another eight years before construction on their long-promised station actually begins.
“We may never have a firehouse out there,” he joked.
But buying the land is an important first step, township officials said. For years, leaders shopped for a good location, said Fred Dunlevy, who sits on the Center Township Advisory Board. When the plot along State Road 9 (Main Street in Maxwell) became available at a good price, the three-member board opted to move forward, he said.
Local leaders knew an additional fire station would be needed in the near future because of predicted population growth within city limits, Greenfield Fire Territory Chief James Roberts said.
The fire territory is already renovating Station 22 on New Road in Greenfield, citing an increase in firefighters over the years to meet the city’s needs. Greenfield borrowed about $3.3 million to expand the station to make room for the six full-time firefighters that work 24-hour shifts there.
But as Greenfield and Center Township continue to grow, another fire station likely will be needed, officials say.
More than 53 square miles make up Center Township. The population is concentrated in Greenfield, where 21,000 people currently live — a jump from 14,600 in 2000, according to Census data. Only about 6,000 people live outside of the city, but it is the fire department’s duty to serve those folks and respond to their emergencies as quickly as those in city limits, Roberts said.
Officials believe that as residents and businesses continue to search for real estate near Greenfield, they’ll increasingly look toward Maxwell and other areas to the north of city limits.
And more people mean emergency calls, Roberts said.
The fire department has added a few hundred emergency calls to its run load each year since it became the fire territory. The department handled roughly 4,000 emergency calls in 2016 — an increase of about 1,000 calls since 2012, the first year the territory agreement was in place.
Roberts anticipates those numbers will rise as more people move into the area the territory is tasked with assisting, he said.
Having a third station, one a bit closer to those living on the edges of Center Township, will make it easier to get to calls outside of city limits, Roberts said.
For example, when driving without the lights or sirens that emergency vehicles typically use, it currently takes about 10 minutes to get from the fire station on New Road to Arrowhead Drive, the township’s eastern edge, Roberts said.
That response time is more than cut in half — taking about four minutes to get Arrowhead Drive — when starting from the plot of land where the third station will be built, he said.