Fire living quarters move into SCOPE Center

Tribune Chronicle / Jon Wysochanski Niles fire Capt. Bryan Lowrie looks at the large sheets of plastic in the living quarters of the fire department where leaks have become commonplace.

NILES — Leaks at the fire department and delays in completing a roofing job have caused the department’s living quarters to move across the street to the SCOPE Senior Center.

The Senior Center will call the Wellness Center home until Monday now that firefighters have taken up residence in its building. All Senior Center activities, with the exception of tax help on Friday, will occur at the Wellness Center. Mike Wilson, SCOPE director of senior services, said the SCOPE management team and volunteers were able to quickly address the situation and make it as seamless as possible for members.

“We are happy to work with them and we just want people to be aware that we are currently at the Wellness Center,” Wilson said.

Fire department administrative offices will remain at the Safety Service building, but crews will, at least for this week, sleep and take meals at the Senior Center, according to Ed Stredney, director of public service. The roof of the Safety Service building has been under construction since December.

“Between the construction fumes and debris, it was suggested they go across the street,” Stredney said.

Twinsburg-based Campopiano Roofing in September was awarded a $341,000 roofing bid to replace roofs on the Niles fire substation, Safety Service Building, which includes Niles Municipal Court, and structures at Waddell and Stevens parks. On Dec. 18, a portion of the ceiling collapsed in Niles Municipal Court, causing the court to close for a couple of days.

“The roof project is almost done,” Stredney said. “We’re anticipating this week they should be done.”

For the time being when calls come in, firefighters must dash across East State Street while watching for traffic. This is less than ideal in an industry where seconds count, said fire Capt. Bryan Lowrie.

Lowrie said there have long been issues with leaks in the living quarters of the department that he called “deplorable.” Lowrie pointed to sheets of plastic now hanging to catch water and rust. He said morale is down because of the conditions and in a job where people are required to stay on station and can’t go home to see their families, it would be nice to have a decent place to live.

After a heavy rain on Friday, the crew ran out of buckets to catch the leaks, Lowrie said. Some firefighters now call the living quarters “the swamp,” and Lowrie said although he’s appreciative money was allocated for a new roof, the delays can be blamed on “incompetence from the top down.”

“These are deplorable conditions,” Lowrie said. “There are foreclosed houses that look better than this.”

Lowrie said he’s grateful the Senior Center worked with the department to provide a living space, but the condition of the fire department is something taxpayers should be angry about. Repairs will be made to the fire department living quarters, Stredney said, with firefighters installing their own carpet.

“They should be back in there by the end of weekend,” Stredney said.