Among the questions that casts shadows over the meetings of the commissioners of the East Clinton Fire District is whether they need a new or expanded firehouse.
Another related question is, do they need a firehouse at all?
Arthur Weiland, one of five elected commissioners, is the only commissioner who is not also a member of the fire department. But as a regular attendee of fire commissioners’ meetings, he is as well informed as any member of the public. He told us that he was given a detailed tour of the firehouse by the captain, and was given a brief on the firehouse shortcomings which he could see for himself.
There are many problems with the existing firehouse. Perhaps the most serious is that OSHA, that regulates safety matters for workplaces, has found that the ceiling heights are too low for work to be done on the equipment when it is parked inside.
To correct this defect would involve a major structural change in a building that has many other shortcomings.
The meeting room is upstairs and is not handicapped accessible. The rest rooms are cramped; one is accessible by a narrow stairway. There is insufficient storage space. One vehicle is parked outside because there is no more room inside. The water source is of dubious reliability. The drainage and sewage arrangements are even more dubious. While these matters are discussed piecemeal, comprehensive resolutions are not reached because piecemeal solutions will not work.
The fire company, with members of the board of commissioners, are actively considering a new firehouse. They commissioned Liscum, McCormack Van Voorhis LLP, a firm that has designed many firehouses in the area including Pleasant Valley and Dover, to plan a new building for the ECFD. At the last meeting on April 13, Stephanie Bonk, chairwoman of the board of commissioners, was reluctant to give Weiland access to the plans, but wiser heads prevailed. Weiland expects to be shown the architect’s plans or be given a copy in the near future. Commissioner Steve Forschler indicated that although preliminary sketches were prepared, the projected design was rejected as “too expensive”.
Michael McCormack, a partner of the firm, is the brother of the fire department’s captain.
When the ECFD was cited as having excess reserve funds, the commissioners
wanted to create a new reserve fund for firehouse maintenance, repair and construction, but creating such a fund needed voter approval. The voters, considering the question as a referendum on a new firehouse, defeated the measure. The vote was 88 voting no and 54 voting yes. A search was made for other possible reserve accounts and by October of 2015 a Buildings and Grounds Reserve fund was found that had been established prior to the 1960 and the funds were moved to that account.
In anticipation of a new firehouse, the commissioners purchased a 4.3 acre plot in 2011 for $215,000. It is separated from the present firehouse property by a right of way and has frontage on Salt Point Turnpike. The present firehouse property is .73 acres.
The vote on the fund does not, however, remove the problems of the firehouse. The fire department still wants a better facility. The commissioners continue to talk with members of the company on the subject. But, because there are so many un-answered questions relating back to recent history that involve both past and sitting commissioners, members of the public continue to show hostility to even more spending of taxpayer funds. An unused firehouse in the West Clinton fire district creates an impression that the Town of Clinton is already well supplied with firehouses.
Contact information and dates of meetings, all of which are public, can be found at the Town of Clinton website.