By Denisa R. Superville
NEW MILFORD, N.J. — Firefighters at Engine Company 2 hope that the borough will soon make a decision on whether to renovate the firehouse, part of which dates back to the 1920s, or build a new one in its place.
The firehouse, on Trenton Street, has two cracks snaking down two supporting columns on its northern side. And one of the company's two ladder trucks will reach its useful life expectancy in 2013. The replacement truck will be too large to fit into the current engine bay, said Angelo DeCarlo, a former fire chief and a member of Company 2, who has been spearheading the project.
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"We have been thinking about this for many years, because we know that the ladder truck is eventually going to have to be replaced with a thoroughly compliant apparatus, which is going to be longer," DeCarlo said during a recent tour of the facility with Fire Chief Ralph Leonardi and Councilman Dominic Colucci.
The Borough Council recently agreed to a request from the fire company to hire an engineer to review the structural integrity of the building to determine whether it could accommodate an expansion.
"The goal is to have it looked at, in the event the council decides to renovate or add as opposed to knocking it down and rebuilding it on the spot," said Colucci, liaison to the Fire Department.
An exploratory committee has been working on making the firehouse compliant with changes in state and federal regulations since 2006, DeCarlo said.
Robbie Conley, an architect from Gloucester County, submitted a needs assessment and deficiency study of Engine Company 2 last year.
The report said the engine company has a limited ability to meet the current and future needs of the community and called the lack of administrative and house space "unacceptable."
Among the firehouse's shortcomings, according to the report, are a cramped engine bay apparatus area, insufficient storage space for turnout gear and no secure space to store hazardous materials.
Space is so tight that firefighters change into their gear about five feet away from the ladder truck, creating an unsafe environment for firefighters who inhale exhaust fumes and are in close proximity to a moving vehicle, DeCarlo said.
The report recommended that the borough hire an engineer to inspect the cracks and determine the structural soundness of the northern wall.
The department should explore major renovations or replacement of the facility to meet the need, the report said. Conley recommended a new building.
The report included five possibilities for renovating the facility, with construction costs ranging from $2 million to $2.4 million.
The issue was tabled for a short period as the elections brought two new council members and a new mayor into office. Colucci reintroduced the issue.
Mayor Ann Subrizi said at a recent meeting that she favors putting all the emergency services — fire, police and emergency medical — into one building but there isn't much available space for a new building.
The other problem is money.
"A few years ago, we were looking for $2.3 million to complete the project and that was completely out of our reach," the mayor said of the firehouse.
Colucci agreed that money is a concern.
"I know every taxpayer in this town is hard-pressed right now. They don't want their taxes going up," he said. "That's why I want to look at the renovation possibilities here."
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