Funding sought to build new firehouse

Proposed $3 million facility would be put in back of old middle school site

October 26, 2003|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

The volunteer fire company serving the New Windsor area will soon begin a fund-raising drive to build a new firehouse - after more than 15 years of looking for a new site.

The New Windsor Fire and Hose Company No. 1 station at 211 High St., built in 1954, lacks parking and offices, and the kitchen is outdated, said Richard Hooper, the company president.

Most important, he said, "the equipment got bigger, but the building didn't."

The two engines, snuggled inside, have to be pulled outside for washing. And if an organization is holding a dinner when the siren sounds, it can get an unappetizing blast of exhaust.

Now, the company has a new site at the edge of town, where tentative plans call for a $3 million firehouse with bays for its engines, ambulance and trucks and space for a banquet hall, kitchen, and offices.

"We're in the process of designing a new fire hall. We do have the land now," Hooper said. "It's much easier than where we are now."

The fire company had long had its eye on the property at the vacant New Windsor Middle School, which fronts Route 75. At one point during its search, the company wanted to tear down the old school to build a station.

Instead, the Carroll County school board, the state Board of Public Works and the county government eventually turned over 4 1/2 acres at the back of the school property to the town.

"I kind of jumped on this when I got into office" in May 2001, said New Windsor Mayor Sam M. Pierce. "It had been dragging on for years."

As soon as the town got the land, Pierce said, "we turned around and gave it to the fire company."

"It's just going to be wonderful," he said. "The trucks will have their own bays; they can have banquets downstairs and not interfere with the operations of the fire company."

The town owns and has offices in an earlier firehouse building at 209 High St., an undated structure for the fire company, which first organized in 1909.

Now, the 1954 structure next door is so small that three pieces of equipment must be parked at the back.

The kitchen is too old, and the dining area has to be set up near the engines, Pierce said.

"Now if you're eating and the fire siren sounds, they crank up and you could get all the exhaust as the trucks go out," Pierce said. For bigger events such as a blood drive, firefighters park the engines on the street.

But the new firehouse will have a kitchen opening to its carnival grounds, Hooper said. A banquet and social hall will be on the lower level and administrative offices on the upper level, he said.

The New Windsor company's first-response area is large and mostly rural, Hooper said. The department's area of responsibility extends to the Frederick County line to the west, Linwood and Uniontown to the north, Medford to the east and Sams Creek Road to the south, he said.

Hooper said the fire company has been planning a capital campaign with a professional fund-raiser. It might also seek a low-interest loan through the county, he said.

The New Windsor Town Council voted this month to pay for an engineering study for a sewer line to the property but has made no commitment to pay for the line, said Pierce.

But the council might, the mayor said, because the new sewer line "would help the town and also help the fire company." The new firehouse also will benefit from plans to change two roads in town, the mayor said. Atlee Avenue will dead-end, and High Street will be extended to allow easier access.

"The new firehouse will be sitting right on top of the road, so that road will be closed off," Pierce said of Atlee Avenue.

The groundbreaking could come after the fire company's carnival week in June, he said.

The last new firehouse built in Carroll was in Westminster and was dedicated in October 1998.

Edwin W. Palsgrove, a New Windsor fire company spokesman and a town councilman, said the plans for the building are being refined.

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