Transfer of Historic Fire Station Ignites Heated Debate

By: Eric Fossell Email
By: Eric Fossell Email

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Things became heated Monday night at Huntington City Council when the agenda turned to the sale of a historic fire station.

Council members ultimately voted to transfer former Huntington Fire Department Station No. 4, located along 14th Street West, to the Huntington Urban Renewal Authority.

The decision came, however, after nearly an hour of intense debate among council members – mainly about ensuring that a buyer maintains the property’s historical significance.

Built around the turn of the 19th and 20th century (circa 1903), the former fire station -- along with another vacant piece of property in the city -- appraised for about $50,000, according to Charles Holley, director of the Department of Development and Planning.

City leaders said they were banking on the sale of both properties to help pay a $15,000 EPA fine, along with nearly $84,000 in supplemental environmental projects.

Jennifer Williams, the city’s storm water coordinator, said the consequences of delaying payment of the EPA fine could be devastating for the city – potentially escalating to fines in the millions.

“The EPA will come back on us, and it will be ten times harder than they already have,” Williams told council members. “We’ve pushed this off and pushed this off.”

Councilwoman Frances Jackson made a motion to separate the two properties, but that motion ultimately failed. Jackson said she was concerned that city leaders from a previous administration had decided to grant the property to the Central City Association as a museum.

“There was a promise made to the Central City folks,” Jackson said. “I think that needs to be kept.”

Other council members said they were concerned that making stipulations about the property would affect its marketability.

“What will happen then if we can’t sell it?” Councilman Steve Williams said.

Williams also referred to the need to begin paying the EPA fine, referring to failure to do so as having “potentially catastrophic results.”

“We’re walking a narrow razor’s edge here,” Williams said.

In other business, Council unanimously approved increasing certain Municipal Court fines from $10 to $35 regarding payment of court costs for those found guilty in Municipal Court. Council members said the last fine increase was in 1981.

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