Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 6
 
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
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“Significant Repairs” for No. 1 Firehouse Spur Larger Debate

Dilshanie Perera

Princeton Engine Company Number One‘s firehouse on Chestnut Street is in need of significant repairs. At a Borough meeting last week, Council member David Goldfarb said that the firehouse floor was “not strong enough to support the weight of the fire trucks,” which have since been relocated to Mercer Engine Company Number Three on Witherspoon Street.

“We are still in the information gathering phase,” Mr. Goldfarb said.

In addition to the structural soundness of the floors, the building is also plagued by a leaky roof. “We’re investigating temporary solutions,” noted Borough Administrator Robert Bruschi. “Right now we have no money budgeted for any of the repair items,” he said, adding that the leak is located at the front wall of the firehouse.

President of Engine Company Number One William D. Shields emphasized in an interview the current collaborative process between members of the fire company, fire department, governing bodies, and administrations in addressing the issue, noting that each group is “working together toward a common goal.”

Priorities for the company include “getting the floor shored up and getting the truck back,” to maintain morale, Mr. Shields said, adding, “We want to work within the system to get this rectified as soon as possible.”

Founded in 1794, Engine Company One is one of three fire companies serving the Borough and Township. Comprised of all-volunteer forces, the three firehouses make up the Princeton Fire Department.

Mr. Shields, who is a third-generation member of Engine Company One, described the group as a family with a wealth of knowledge and expertise.

The Borough’s Director of Emergency Services Mark Freda explained in a telephone interview that routine minor repairs in all of the firehouses last fall revealed some “areas of concern” to the Borough Engineer. A structural study done on the Chestnut Street building by Harrison-Hamnett, P.C., Consulting Structural Engineers, advocated for the move of the fire trucks and showed that more significant structural work was necessary.

According to a January 29 memo to Administration and Council, the estimated cost of the repairs to Engine Company Number One’s building would total $148,000.

Mr. Bruschi noted in an interview that the municipalities are waiting to hear back from the engineering firm regarding specific costs for preliminary minor repairs that will lend the building functionality in the short term. Long term plans include a comprehensive look at the provision of fire services within the Borough and Township, and the development of a strategic plan.

“We have a 200-year tradition of the fire companies being in town; we don’t want to lose that,” Mr. Bruschi said, adding that maintaining the robust social element and independence of each fire company was of great importance.

It may make sense to reconsider the location of the station, given that it is “an old building in the middle of a residential neighborhood,” Mr. Bruschi noted, while emphasizing that the character of Engine Company Number One must be preserved.

“We’re trying to find an amicable solution,” Mr. Shields said, underscoring the importance of the location and preservation of the building on Chestnut Street. “The whole shape of the tree streets would change if that building goes,” he said.

Though funding is currently unavailable, addressing the necessary repairs and also putting money into a planning effort on how to best organize the fire companies while maintaining their independence may be the likely next steps, Mr. Bruschi said.

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