County offers site for new firehouse

15-year search for land to build larger facility is over

3 acres in New Windsor picked as building site for firehouse

New Windsor

April 12, 2001|By Ellie Baublitz | Ellie Baublitz,SUN STAFF

After searching for 15 years for a location to build a larger firehouse, New Windsor Fire Engine & Hose Company No. 1 has come up with not only a site, but a conceptual drawing for the station.

The county commissioners have offered the fire company about 3 acres on High Street, behind the old New Windsor Middle School and adjacent to the fire company's carnival grounds.

The commissioners rejected the fire company's request to renovate the school as a firehouse.

The large lot would allow the fire department to build a firehouse with five bays, administrative offices, sleeping quarters, and a social hall that would connect to the carnival grounds for activities.

"We've outgrown our present site, but we want to stay in town central to our responders," said Drew Strine, fire company president.

The company has looked at other sites at the edge of town, but they were unsuitable, Strine said. When the new middle school was built, the fire company had considered turning the old school into a firehouse.

Fire company officials presented their latest proposal for the facility to the New Windsor mayor and Town Council on April 4.

Strine noted space and safety factors to justify a new station.

At the existing firehouse, fire engines have to pull out onto a state road, Route 31, near an intersection with limited visibility. The ambulance, utility and brush trucks are housed on a lower level in the rear of the building and exit onto a narrow alley next to the station.

Firefighters have to pull trucks partially into the street to wash them.

"Luckily, none of our people have been hit cleaning the equipment out in the road," Strine said.

Tight quarters

The fire company's other complaints about the current station include the lack of adequate office space for the company's 14 officers, no facilities for paid emergency medical services personnel, no proper social hall and no parking for volunteers responding to calls.

Strine noted that during the Y2K period, people were told to go to their local firehouse in case of emergency.

"There's no way we'd get the town population in here," Strine said.

The meeting April 4 was held in a small open space behind two huge fire engines that barely fit into the narrow bays.

The town's master plan calls for extending High Street to Atlee Road, which borders the 3-acre tract and the carnival grounds.

The fire company wants Atlee Road closed off because it would be the only one using it, he said.

Three of the five bays would be drive-throughs, with an outside ramp facing High Street. Administrative offices, bunkrooms and other facilities for EMS personnel would be on the same level but face Atlee Road.

A social hall would be located on a lower level, also facing Atlee.

"Having the hall next to the carnival grounds would allow us to have only one kitchen for the hall and carnival [dinners] and we may be able to hire a local catering business for events," said Richard Hooper, company vice president and building committee chairman.

"That could mean hiring local people and bringing more people into town for events," Hooper said

He said the fire company has approved the plans and needs the town's blessing before returning to the county to begin the building process.

Questions remain

During the meeting, residents expressed concerns about traffic along an extended High Street and about children walking to school there.

Mayor Jack A. Gullo Jr. said those and other issues would be considered during the planning and approval process. He said the fire company would have to follow the standard review process for a new building.

More discussion will occur at the Town Council's meeting next month when the council is expected to take action to allow the fire company to proceed with its plans, he said.

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