12 August, 1987
TOPICS of the Town
Study of a Third Site For Firehouse Initiated
The future site of the new firehouse was tentatively moved across the street during Township Committee meeting on Monday night. The Committee approved $10,000 for a study by Short & Ford Architects of a site located directly across from the Valley Road Building on Witherspoon Street.
Located in the grassy area adjacent to the Community Park Pool parking lot, the site includes the land where the recreation building now stands. The plan will move the Township police headquarters to a new building next to the firehouse on the site.
The new firehouse will replace the Chambers Street firehouse which consultants and firefighters found inadequate because of traffic, space, and parking problems.
This is the third site under serious consideration by the Township Facilities Committee. The other -sites are on school board property next door to the Valley Road Building on what is now a visitors’ parking lot and on the triangular piece of land between Route 206 and Witherspoon Street by the municipal garage. When these two sites were presented to the Planning Board for consideration last week, the Board voted to express their preference for the site adjacent to the Valley Road Building. The school board is scheduled to consider this site at their next meeting in September.
Parking, Safety Concerns. According to Facilities Committee head Carol N. Wojciechowicz, concerns about parking and safety that were raised by school board members when the Committee met last Thursday caused them to reconsider the third location. The new site had been considered by the Committee but never studied by the architects. “Everyone’s concerns, including the school board, threw the whole thing back across the street again,” she said.
Mrs. Wojciechowicz urged the Township Committee to approve funds for a study of the site in order to keep the process of locating and building a new firehouse in motion. She shared the Facilities Committee’s concern that if the Board of Education did not approve location of a firehouse on their property, the search for a new firehouse would be stalled. By approving funds now, the five to six weeks needed to complete the study could be saved later in the event that the Board of Education rejected use of its land.
Short & Ford architect Johanna Kendig presented maps of the area marked with the alternative firehouse locations. She said that the third site plan alternative would not address construction of a new municipal building. She suggested that various amounts of renovation of the Valley Road Building could possibly serve the long term needs of the municipal offices and the school board.
Allen Grossman, School Board finance chairman; speaking as a concerned parent, expanded on the safety concerns that were first raised at the Planning Board meeting. “The issue is not when the fire trucks rev up, it’s the access around this property when the children are leaving school.”
According to Mr. Grossman, many children cross with guards at the school and come down around the Valley Road Building to use the bike path. He said that some parents require their children to avoid the emergency vehicle traffic around the hospital and use this access route to go home and to the playing fields at Valley Road, the Middle School and the High School. He was against the introduction of emergency vehicles to what is now a “safe access route” for children.
Planning Board member Michael Tomlin repeated the concerns he had expressed to the Planning Board about safety considerations and the effects of losing valuable parking spaces in an area plagued by parking problems. “We don’t want to do anything that will have a real negative impact on the future use of this building (Valley Road Building).”
“We need to take some action,” said Assistant Fire Chief Mark Freda. He urged the Committee to set a goal of the end of September for a decision on a location for the new firehouse.
The new firehouse has top i priority in the list of new facilities under consideration in the Township, according to Mrs.Wojciechowicz. This is follow-tried by the need for a new police station and finally for new multiple municipal offices.