Possible study set on site for firehouse

29 March, 1988 (~estimated)

Possible study set on site for firehouse

While local firefighters continue to endure the firehouse on congested Chambers Street — where last week volunteers could not get a truck out to answer an alarm — money has been tentatively approved for yet another study of a site for a new firehouse.

Continuing its consideration of the Witherspoon Street-Valley Road area, the Princeton Township Committee this week set aside funds for another study for the firehouse. But the final go-ahead for the $7,500 study of the site is contingent upon approval by the Princeton Regional Board of Education, which owns the land.

Under the latest study, Short and Ford Architects of Princeton would evaluate a site that includes the Witherspoon Street parking lot adjacent to the Valley Road Building.

The board turned down this same location last September but dis-cussion is underway to set up meet-ings between the board and Township Committee.

For months, consideration of a site has centered on various parcels in the Witherspoon Street-Valley Road area. A new firehouse is needed to better serve the growth in the north-ern Princeton area and because the Chambers Street firehouse in located on a narrow street in the middle of the congested downtown area.

The fire department’s Board of Engineers first agreed to vacate the Chambers Street firehouse in mid-1986.

It is one of three firehouses serving the Princetons. The other two stations are Engine No. I on Chestnut Street and Hook & Ladder Co. No. I on North Harrison Street.

In the new study, architect Jeremiah Ford III would examine the entire area from Valley Road to the Williamson Construction garage and from Witherspoon Street back to the Valley Road School playing fields.

“Right now the space is very underutilized,” Mr. Ford said. “It is a maintenance yard for the school board and it is where they park their school buses.”

“We know we could put the (fire-house) on the (40-car) parking lot adjacent to the Valley Road Building,” Mr. Ford said, noting that there ‘might be some .additional parking space in the maintenance yard area.

School board members turned down this location in September 1987, citing concerns with parking, the safety of school children and the need to retain the school building for future use. Princeton Township currently leases the building for its municipal offices.

Apparently, board members are reconsidering their decision.

The board is negotiating with Township Committee, according to board president Corinne Kyle.

“We are talking to arrange a series of meetings with (the school board and) the Township Committee,” she said. “We need to sit down and see what (committee members) have in mind.”

Board members might react more favorably to the Witherspoon Street parking lot site now that the Township Committee is considering signing a long lease on the Valley Road Building, according to board member Michael Tomalin.

The committee was once considering moving its municipal offices into a new building.

“It is almost a precondition that the township offices must remain in the Valley Road Building for the fire-house to be located on the (adjacent) parking lot,” Mr. Tomalin said.

“Otherwise, what could we do with a vacant building and no parking?”

The school board business and finance committee is talking to the Township Committee about the town-ship government’s continued tenancy in the building, he added.

The Township Committee plans to stay in the Valley Road Building and it wants to negotiate a longer lease,’ Mayor Cathleen Litvack said.

“Both the township and the school board can rest assured that we will be hem,” she said. “This will remain the municipal building and the school administration building.”

The mayor added that she is hopeful the committee and the school board will have a productive negotiation on the lease and on the siting of the firehouse.

In the meantime, volunteer firefighters at Princeton Engine Company No. 3 get frustrated due to congestion along narrow Chambers Street.

Last week the fire engines were stuck inside the firehouse during an alarm because delivery trucks parked right in front of the bay doom, Princeton Borough) Fire C4- missioner and Firefighter Mark Freda said.

“Another truck from another firehouse answered that call,” Mr. Freda said. “In this case it was not a problem. But if it were a big fire, it could have been (a problem).”

Princeton Fire Chief Richard G. McKee said it is somewhat obvious that the traffic is getting more and more congested on Chambers Street.

He said he looks forward to a new firehouse but added that the process of finding a location “takes a long time.

“I think we are moving closer to it,” he said.

Because of a lack of parking spaces downtown, drivers defiantly park their cars in the three spaces especially designated for the firefighters, Mr. Freda said. And sometimes, they park right in front of the bay doors

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