Land swap is good way to solve firehouse siting woes

Princeton Packet
8 November, 1988

Land swap is good way to solve firehouse siting woes

The announcement about siting the new firehouse played second fiddle to the fire sirens announcing a fire on Snowden Lane last week.

The fire, fortunately, was a minor house fire that sparked no great conflagration.

Finding a location for a firehouse, however, has been a major problem that nearly caused a great conflagration — but instead sparked an ingenious solution designed by Princeton Township and the Princeton Regional Board of Education.

Congratulations to the town officials for coming up with what seems to he a clever and workable plan that barters need for need, not dollars for dollars.

The proposal is to locate the much needed new firehouse on school board property — in the half-acre parking lot of the Valley Road School Building, now leased by the school board to Princeton Township for administrative offices. To compensate the school board for this land, the town will cum over to the school board 14 acres of land next to the Johnson Park School. The extra acreage could be used to satisfy the school district’s need for recreation space.

The land-swap proposal came just in the nick of time. The officials have doused cool water on some hot tempers of firefighters angered over the delays in siting the fire-house. Three years ago, the initial report was released documenting the inadequacies of the Chambers Street firehouse; one year ago began formal discussions about where to locate a new firehouse.

Just one week before the announcement, several members of Mercer Engine Co. No. 3, which makes its home at the Chambers Sweet firehouse, voiced their “frustration” and “disgust” with the delays and the secrecy surrounding the negotiation process. Some made off-the-record comments about how poor morale could hurt the effectiveness of an all-volunteer firefighting corps.

Several complex details, such as employee parking arrangements, school bus parking, safety of the school children and the school board’s need to retain revenues from leasing the Valley Road Building, dragged the negotiation process to a tortoise-like speed, according to officials. Princeton Township Mayor Cathleen Litvack said a decision had taken longer than she anticipated or wanted.

At this point, it would be unproductive for the firefighters or the community to grumble– as some are still doing—about the decision-making process. What would be productive is to concentrate on the fine decision and implementation of that decision as quickly as possible.

Residents should encourage members of both the Township Committee and the school board to approve the agreement at their respective Nov. 21 and Nov. 22 meetings — and to get working on constmc-lion of a new firehouse at once.

Groundbreaking is anticipated by 1990. We think it could be earlier without compromising the quality of the project. The township, borough and fire department by the end of November ought to have a committee in place for hammering out the requirements of the structure. The administrators and lawyers simultaneously should work out the details of financing the construction. The committee must get a plan down before an architect is hired.

The town already has a list of architects with experience in designing firehouses. These people should be contacted to alert them that a site has been selected. In four months, the job could be sent out to bid. ‘ July, 1989, could mark the groundbreaking.

Let’s prevent delays from once again cooling the ardor of our volunteer fire-fighting force.

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