Where to Put a Firehouse? 3 Sites Under Consideration / Terrace Club is Closed By Costly Friday Fire

Town Topics
16 December, 1987

Where to Put a Firehouse? 3 Sites Under Consideration
Barbara L. Johnson

Which comes first knowing where. you are going to put a firehouse so that you then know how much you will have to spend, or knowing how much you have to spend so that you then can decide where to put it?

Borough Council and Township Committee wrestled with this chicken-or-egg issue in a prolonged joint session Monday evening. The main issue actually involved side issues, such as: Is the Borough willing to pay for some share of the cost if the site decision requires the Township to condemn property and purchase land it does not own?

The answer to this one emerged fairly early on. Councilman. Mark Freda, who  is also a fireman, said, If we can get the site settled, the proceeds of the sale of the Chambers Street firehouse in all likelihood will go to the construction of a new firehouse. It won’t go for land acquisition.” Which prompted Township Mayor Gail W. Firestone to ask what “in all likelihood” means.

Three sites were up for discussion: the triangular […] of and between Valley Terhune Road nex, 206, which include, me Township public works garage; the Community Park Pool parking lot; and land on Witherspoon Street presently occupied by Williamson Construction and the Tiger Garage.

The first involves a major cost to the Township in relocating the public works garage — something that Jerry Ford, architect consultant to the Township’s facilities study committee, recommends be done at some time in any event. But neither he nor the professional planner likes this site because of its narrowness, and the traffic consultant is concerned about the acute-angle turn onto Witherspoon for big fire trucks.

The second site, the Community Park Pool parking lot, involves relocating the Recreation Department office, which is also something that the architect recommends be done at some point. Mr. Ford also recommends, as a constant in all schemes, the squaring off of the parking lot to gain more parking spaces. The lot is heavily used by the Community Park School personnel, as well as by people using the recreation facilities, and is “in-efficient” as presently design-ed, Mr. Ford says.

The third choice requires the condemnation of the Williams Construction/Tiger Garage building and purchase of the property. Mr. Ford said either number two or number three would be suitable from a planning point of view. He leans toward number two, the Community Park Pool parking lot, because of the potential for creating an architecturally unified municipal complex for the Township.

“All sites have their critics,” Mr. Ford said, “and to some extent the criticism is valid.” The Planning Board raised questions about safety and baffle, and deferred an endorsement, but both Borough Council and Township Committee have, by formal resolution, approved the Community Park Pool padding lot site. Opposition to this site from the Recreation Department, the Recreation Board and neighbors caused the facilities study committee headed by Township Committeewoman Carol Wojciechowics to re. think the location.

Time to Press Ahead. ”We have said the pool site will be it,” Mr. Freda remarked, “and now you are backing oft. Were hoping you will say ‘yes’ to-night and that we can go full speed ahead. The municipality can bypass the Planning Board. We can take their opinion and press ahead regard-In Mr. Freda’s view, pinning down the site would clarify the financial obligations. But May-or Firestone wanted to know whether the new firehouse was supposed to replace one firehouse or two, and if two, would the Borough sell two firehouses or contribute more money. At issue here was the fact that the proposed firehouse has grown from a two-bay replacement of the Chambers Street firehouse, as recommended in the Shand Report, to a five-bay facility. Mr. Freda replied that there was concern that the next firetruck purchased will not fit in any of the existing firehouses. “We’re looking at future equipment as well as to-days. And also whether we will have to go to paid drivels, because we can’t get volunteers.

“There was a feeling,” he continued, “let’s not sell ourselves short. The question is, do we scale back now, only tomcat greater, cost later, or do we bite the bullet now?”

What Will Borough Do? “Do we have a decision from Borough Council that it will contribute to the larger firehouse to the extent not covered by the sale of the Chambers Street haze?” Mayor Firestone asked.

Council President Marvin Reed explained that the Borough has “all along” felt that the amount the Borough con-tributes from the sale of the Chambers Street firehouse should be equal to the value of the land that the Township con-tributes. Mr. Ford estimated the cost of constructing a five-bay firehouse at $1.4 million, and said that each bay costs about $80,000.

Cautioning against being “penny wise and pound foolish,” he said the pouch or $100,000 extra would be “well spent” today. A large portion of the total cost of the firehouse is in things that don’t change, he said.

Still another issue involved future Recreation Department needs, specifically additional parking and the possible expand-non of the’ pool. Municipal Judge Sidney S. Souter, who was a member of the facilities study committee, was strongly opposed to the Community Park Pool site on these grounds. “Don’t put something where it blocks the pool from growing,” Mr. Sauter said.

“Every summer I get people [in court] with parking tickets because they can’t find places to park.” Mr. Ford said there were other places to put additional parking, including creating a multi-level parking facility off Route 206 next to the proposed new police station, where the present police station is located. He also said that the area around the Valley Road Incline was “underutilized.”

Councilwoman Jane Terpstra agreed with Mr. Suter that the pool parking lot should not be used for a firehouse. She made a motion to recommend for site three, the Williams Construction/Tiger Garage site, but it was not seconded by any member of Council. Another motion, to re-endorse the pool parking lot, was passed by all members of Council except Ms. Terpstra.

Committeewoman Kate Litvak, who is expected to be the next Township mayor and who serves on the Recreation Board, also spoke out against the Community Park Pool site. “We’re giving short shrift to the Recreation Department,” Ms. Litvack said. She count-reed the notion that the pool site involves the least expense to the Township by noting that there is a cost attached to moving the Recreation building.

She spoke of overcrowding on the pool site, as did Peter Halstead, another member of the facilities study committee. Mr. Halstead said he favored site three, the Tiger Garage site, adding that acquiring it “takes a little guts,” but he was confident the expenses could be worked out. Committeewoman Phyllis Marchand said she had received many phone calls against using the pool lot for a firehouse and suggested that, if a public referendum were held. that site would be voted down. She made a motion to endorse the Tiger Garage site, which was seconded by Committeewoman Janet Mitchell. Both women had voted in favor of the Community Park Pool parking lot when it was originally brought up before Township Committee.

Mrs. Wojciechowicz and Mayor Firestone voted against their motion. Committeeman Thomas Poole was absent, so the vote was tied, 2-2. A motion to re-endorse the pool parking lot site also resulted in a tie. It will be brought up again at Committee’s next meeting on Monday night.

In other business, the two governing bodies agreed not to bring the firehouse issue back to the Planning Board until the site plan stage. Thus they would not need the further services of Short and Ford as consultants, although this firm may very well he chosen to be the architect for the project.

The two governing bodies also declined.to pay a PAO bill received from the advertising agency that was helping mount a campaign to recruit new volunteer firefighters and rescue squad personnel. The expenses were not authorized, it was said, and Mr. Poole had said he would solicit contributions from corporations. They wished him luck in his solicitation.

Town Topics
December 16, 1987

Terrace Club Is Closed By Costly Friday Fire

A stubborn fire at the Terrace Club Friday that caused an estimated $100,000 to $500,000 in damage to the 83- year-old building has forced the I closing of the eating club that was home to 160 Princeton University students.

The student manager of the I club, senior Ted Zoli, said this week he doesn’t expect the club to reopen until September 1.

Princeton Fire Chief Kenneth Randall and Mercer County Fire Marshal George Lenhardt have concluded after their investigation that the fire , started in a rear room in the = basement of the club, but the – cause of the blaze has not been – determined. The electrical wiring and furnace have been eliminated as possible sources. Arson has not been ruled out, but Mr. Lenhardt added that there is no evidence indicating foul play.

There were about a dozen people, including club members and kitchen employees, in the building when the fire was discovered. All managed to get out safely, but fire officials are also trying to find out why the club’s extensive fire alarm system was inoperable.

There was much structural damage to the fast two floors, and the dining area, and smoke damage throughout the Tudor-style building. A more precise estimate of the damage will not be known until insurance inspectors complete their examination.

The fire was discovered by a cook, Virginia Brewer, who first observed smoke seeping through seams in the kitchen walls. It was reported at 5:50 by club member David Thickens who is also a member of the Princeton Volunteer Fire Department and First Aid Squad.

From its basement starting point, the fire spread along a crawl space and up through the building’s hollow walls. A second blaze, fed by rising hot gases, erupted at 8 p.m. on the third floor, and, as a result, firemen were not able to bring the blaze under full control until 8:15. The main fire was concentrated, one fireman reported, between the wall separating the kitchen and the dining room.

Firemen from Princeton’s three fire companies and from companies in Kingston, Princeton’s Junction, Lawrenceville and Lawrence Road responded to the fire.

The club was founded in 1904 and the building is the only one of the 12 eating clubs not on Prospect Avenue. Four years ago, a fire in the club’s kitchen caused minimal damage, but dub members were taken in by the other clubs until the kitchen was repaired.

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