Township and department near agreement on new firehouse

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:49

    SPARTA n Officials are close to reaching a long-term operational agreement for the new firehouse off Woodport Road. Henry Underhill, Sparta Township manager, said the contract should finalize who will pay for the various aspects of keeping the facility running. The Sparta Township Volunteer Fire Department, which owns the property, is seeking to obtain greater control facility for which it contributed about $1 million of the more than $3 million construction cost. Underhill said the arrangement wouldn't be completed until the fire department sells its property off West Shore Trail. He said once the agreement is reached, the volunteer, non-profit organization could remain autonomous as long as it remained "bona fide" or unless the township decided to establish a paid fire department. The fire department created a stir on Election Day when poll workers were asked to install voting booths in the firehouse bays instead of the main building. Township officials said a reception at the firehouse the day before prompted the move into the bays. "There was a conflict with the dates, but I don't think it precluded anyone from voting," said Miriam Tower, township municipal clerk. Tower said it is standard procedure for the township to use public buildings for polling at no cost. She said private locations charge $40 per day for use of their site. Since its opening last fall, the firehouse accommodates voting districts 2, 9, and 11. According to some reports, puddles of water in the bays presented a hazard for the poll workers when they arrived at 5.m. "It was quite a shock to have to be put in the fire truck bays. I would think that voting should take priority over a three-hour event the day before," said a poll worker who requested not to be identified for this story. Mark Riccarty, chief of the Sparta fire department, did not return phone messages seeking comment.