New firehouse located in water tower

As work crews scurry about to put the finishing touches into the new Union Township firehouse, a great deal of effort has been made making sure that the roof doesn’t leak.

A great deal of effort, to be sure.

“Hopefully, everyone did their homework and it came out all right,” said Union Township Fire Chief Stan Deimling. “It all had to mesh together to come up with a very good end result, and I think it did. We went and looked at other water towers like this one – a fluted column – and it’s an empty barrel. This was quite a feat.”

The township’s newest fire station, which will also serve as the new administrative headquarters for the department, will be located inside a water tower, a two-million gallon behemoth located beside Veteran Park. The marriage of form and function, so to speak, came after the county water department recognized a need for greater water pressure in the area. As the township continued to grow, a much smaller tower located on the same property began to show inadequacy for nearby residents. Kicking around ideas for location and other factors, the idea was floated to make something a little special out of the new landmark.

“The concept goes back more than a dozen years,” said Chief Deimling. “We talked to Tom Yeager with Clermont County, we talked about capital improvements. We were growing and needed to replace the aging 100,000 tower on this property, and I said we’d need a fire station in this area as well. That sparked the possibility. It made a whole lot of sense, it’s a wonderful use of existing space. This is basically an open barrel. If we didn’t put this here, it would stay empty. It just came together.”

Known as a fluted column design, the tower is solely supported by the thin steel walls that are seen as the outside of the tower itself. Inside, there is little else but air and some piping. Recognizing this as potential wasted space in an area of the county where space is quickly dwindling, a deal was struck to make the most of a small plot of land.

“I think the big thing is, as far as the taxpayers go, they’re getting multiple uses for their taxpayer dollars,” said Chief Deimling. “Rather than us going out and duplicating the cost to buy land for a water tower and land for a fire station and build two buildings, you have all of those uses on one parcel of land. It makes a lot of sense to have multiple uses. It’s a wonderful use of space that was available, and it’s a great location for a fire station. It supports the other three stations we already have, it’s exactly in the middle. We have great access here.”

In fact, the concept itself is a rarity. When operational, the new tower station will be one of only two in Ohio to exist, with precious few others in existence in the United States. The reason? Some may fail to even imagine the concept, but most likely, the issue revolves around planning. Creating the new station was an enormous task, said Chief Deimling. And it all boils down to planning ahead, way ahead.

“A lot of things had to be coordinated,” said Chief Deimling. “Since the county was building the tower itself, any opening, any window, any penetration or any door had to be designed. The steel wall is the structural support. K4 has been involved, because that had to be engineered in. It made it complicated, because we were locked into the openings and had to make the rest fit. We had to make it work.”

Collaborating on the project were architects and engineers K4 and the general contractor ADCM, a sister company. Since the walls act as the support for some 20,000,000 pounds of water and the upper steel structure itself, any weakness has to be accounted for, or else nearby property owners could get a big wet surprise when the least expect it. To that end, every opening had to be built in, with no alterations possible. Windows, doors, vents, electrical access – all had to be engineered into the structure and accommodated by the contractors who built the office space inside of the tower base.

“I don’t think any of these guys want to see a curved wall anytime soon,” said Chief Deimling. “Nothing in here is square, and they had to lay the carpet and tile. Nothing added up. It takes a custom builder to do this, it’s a very different project in a lot of ways. Not only are you putting everything in a round building, but the coordination is tough. Getting the electric in here is even more complicated. Vents for the bathrooms, normally you go through the ceiling. You can’t do that, you can’t cut the wall. The fluted column is the support for the two million gallon tank above us. You’re not cutting a hole in it. All of that had to be considered ahead of time not knowing what you are building in the end.”

The fire station itself will consist of one truck and one ambulance and will be staffed by at least four firefighters at any given moment. The station has full amenities, including sleeping quarters, a kitchen and even an exercise room. The station will share its space with the fire department administration and the township’s new cable access station. The cost of building the fire station itself was around $1.7 million. The tower was built by the county at a cost of around $3 million.

An open house has been scheduled for the station, which is expected to open soon. The open house will be on Aug. 1 from 4-7 p.m. at the station located on the corner of Glen Este-Withamsville Road and Clough Pike.