15 April, 1987
Officials awaiting firehouse appraisal
An appraisal of value of the Chambers Street firehouse in Princeton Borough is necessary before plans can proceed to establish a larger station in Princeton Township.
Princeton Fire Department officials seek to start construction of a new firehouse in September — a target date borough Fire Commissioner Mark Freda admits is “a pretty ambitious schedule.”
However, Mr. Freda said previous meetings of the borough and township indicated which route fire officials should take. The fire department is a joint agency administered by the borough.
“Everybody pretty much agreed in principle we’re going to do it,” said Mr. Freda, a borough councilman.
To get the ball rolling, the borough is expected soon to draw up a contract to pay the expenses incurred by Short and Ford architects in the search for a new firehouse location to replace Chambers Street. The township would pay the remaining amount related to the rest of the township Facilities Report.
Relocation of the firehouse is planned in concert with the township’s plans to create additional municipal facilities. At present, township police are located at the corner of Valley Road and Route 206. The Valley Road Building on Witherspoon Street houses township offices and Township Committee meetings are held there.
In recent months, a four-member committee has met to discuss various site options for the firehouse. Committee members are Mr. Freda, township Fire Commissioner Thomas Poole, township Administrator James Pascale and borough Administrator Mark Gordon.
Although a site has not yet been chosen, the location of the township garage and an adjacent grassy lot are the most likely candidates for a new firehouse. Under one proposal, the garage would be relocated and the building renovated as a firehouse.
The Chambers Street station is one of three Princeton firehouses in the borough. The other two stations are Engine Co. No. 1 on Chestnut Street and Hook & Ladder Co. No. 1 on North Harrison Street. At present, the department has 38 volunteer firefighters.
The total cost of renovating the garage is anticipated at approximately $1.5 million, according to Mr. Freda. The borough and township have already set aside $50,000 in their respective municipal budgets for preliminary architectural and engineering fees.
To help defray the million dollar tab, the borough expects to sell the Chambers Street firehouse, which was built in the 1930s. While appraisals have not yet been done, Mr. Freda ‘estimated the Chambers Street station could sell for at least $1 million.
The borough will hire a professional appraiser to judge the value of the Chambers Street building, which houses Engine Co. No. 3. Officials must know the firehouse’s market value before they can decide how much to spend on a new facility, Mr. Freda “explained.
The cost of renovating the township ‘garage versus building a new fire station are quite close, according to Mr. Freda.
Since the township would donate the land, the cost to renovate the garage is estimated at $1,478,000, Mr. Freda said. To build an entirely new structure could cost approximately $1,644,000 and does not include the expense of purchasing the land, he said.
The idea for a new station arose with a report by fire protection Engineer Thomas W. Shand of Syracuse in February 1985. The narrowness of Chambers Street — plus its location in the center of the congested downtown area — spurred Mr. Shand to recommend the move.
While the Chambers Street facility measures approximately 7,000 square feet, the new firehouse would be nearly twice the size, Mr. Freda said. The extra room would accommodate larger fire trucks, a radio room and bunk rooms, he said.
“If we’re going to build this thing, let’s plan for the future,” said Mr. Freda, a member of Hook & Ladder.
He noted, for example, that the fire pumpers ordered for 1993 are taller and longer than the present rigs.
As well as being more spacious, the new building would help lower fire insurance rates because response time in the township would be lower. Fire officials have agreed a station is needed in the township due to anticipated growth in that municipality.
An extension of Terhune Road, which cuts across the property between Witherspoon Street and Route 206, would be eliminated to make the prop-erty nearly one acre, Mr Freda said. A 20-space parking lot is also planned.
The fire department’s Board of Engineers agreed last June that the Chambers Street firehouse must be relocated. They said firefighters have difficulty getting trucks out during emergencies due to the narrowness of Chambers Street.
Following the fire board’s decision, Short and Ford recommended the intersection of Route 206 and Valley Road. But the borough and township still have the final say.
While a joint meeting of the Borough Council and Township Committee would not be necessary, Mr. Freda said the Princeton Regional Planning Board would be required to consider the site plans for a new firehouse. Public hearings would be held at that time.
Another site still under consideration for a new firehouse is the parking lot next to the Valley Road Building, which is owned by the Princeton Regional School District. The district occupies a portion of the building and leases the rest to the township, whose municipal offices are located there.
Borough and township officials expect to discuss various facilities options with the Business and Finance Committee of the Princeton Regional Board of Education on April 27. However, the school site is not as desirable as the township garage because the property would have to be purchased and the district needs the parking spaces, Mr. Freda said. Moreover, he said, the project would eliminate the possibility that the district would reopen the building as an elementary school in future years.
IN MEMORY OF JOSIE HALL: Donations to purchase bulletproof vests for Township police officers in memory of Josie Hall, who served as Township Mayor and Police Commissioner, were made last week by Princeton residents at a meeting of Township Committee. From left are Mrs. Ruth Wilson, Robert ‘ E. Dougherty, Mr. and Mrs. Edward Matthews, R. Peter Hodge and Mrs. Gail Colby and her son, Teddy, Mrs. Hall’s daughter and grandson. Donors unable to be present were Mr. and Mrs. Elwood W. Phares. Mr. and Mrs. John Sienkiewicz and Mr. Wilson.