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Tow VFD must vacate building owned by community center over issues

Tow Volunteer Fire Department

Tow Community Center leaders have asked the Tow Volunteer Fire Department to remove its equipment from a building on the center’s property and vacate it after the two entities failed to find a solution to ongoing structural and water system issues. Staff photo by Alex Copeland

The Tow Volunteer Fire Department has about 10 days left to vacate its building on Tow Community Center property after the two entities failed to come up with a plan to address concerns over structural and water system issues. 

On Oct. 15, community center President Stan Lawler sent a certified letter to Tow VFD leadership notifying them they had 30 days to leave the building. Lawler said the move was a long time coming. The center owns the building and the property on which it sits.

“Eviction is the absolute last thing that we’d ever want to do, but we had to do something. “ Lawler said. “That’s the hardest thing I’ve done in my life. Honest. We’ve got nothing against anybody.”

Among the issues cited in the letter are toilets that run full time, something that has caused recurring problems with the septic system shared by the community center and the VFD.

He added that the community center has spent about $5,000 on some of the water issues. 

Problems with the shared water system have gone back years. In a 2016 agreement, the VFD and community center had pressure controls moved from the fire hall to a third location because center personnel were denied access to the building, even during water outages.

The fire hall serves as the main water storage for the Tow VFD. While there is a secondary tank at Buchanan Lake Village, it’s about half the size and farther out from its main service area, Tow VFD Chief Josh Becker said.

“That’s our big problem with it,” Becker said. “The water. Being a remote fire department, water is key. The building is just a building. That doesn’t break anybody’s heart. Losing it would affect insurance coverage. Finding a place to park a truck is not a big deal. It’s finding a place to get water.”

No final agreement was ever made about maintenance of the building, Becker said. A 2016 mediated agreement between the two parties was reached, but negotiations were never finalized.

“We had one meeting back in 2016, and there was no agreed conclusion,” Becker said. “That’s the last we’d heard about it until (Oct. 15) or (Oct. 16).”