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State permit delaying Decatur fire station

DECATUR- Two hundred and fifty thousand dollars in building materials are lying on the ground at the site where the new Decatur Fire Station should be setting.

The delay in creating a new building out of those materials has angered firefighters. What angers them more is the reason for the delay: the Ohio Department of Commerce has yet to issue a commercial building permit.

"The grant (for the new station) was given some time ago and nothing has been done," Fire Chief James Hutchinson said. "I want my fire station."

Dale Mootz, special projects director for the Ironton-Lawrence County Community Action Organization, said normally, state permits are applied for and are issued at the time design work and other plans are being drawn up. But the new, metal Decatur Fire station is considered a pre-engineered building.

The Department of Commerce requires the bid process to be completed and a vendor chosen before the permits are issued.

Lawrence County Commission President George Patterson said while local officials have no control whatsoever on the state permit process, he and fellow commissioner Jason Stephens have contacted the area's state legislators to ask if they could help hurry state officials along.

"Jason called (State Sen.) John Carey this week to see if there was anything he could do," Patterson said.

"We've done everything we could do to speed things up. We've called everyone we know to try and get them to move on this. The engineers and architects have done everything they're supposed to do. It is totally up to the state."

Hutchinson said the fire department is running out of time to get into the new building.

The department is using space at the old Decatur Elementary School owned by the Rock Hill School District.

That building is now unoccupied because of last year's new elementary school and consolidation effort, and school officials had planned to shut off the electricity to the building Aug. 20.

Mootz has suggested that the fire department talk to school officials about transferring the electricity into the fire department's name until the new station is completed.

Mootz said he is hopeful the state will issue the needed permit within the next couple of weeks.

"Then we can start almost immediately, weather permitting, and we should be able to finish the shell before bad weather hits," Mootz said.