Updates to the Cecil Firehouse in Williamstown have been eight years in the making, with issues that have included leaks and insufficient quarters for firefighters.
“We can be down there for two or three days for storm duty,” said Cecil Fire Co. Chief Jim Solomon. “Firefighters had nowhere to sleep; they would be sleeping in chairs. We had no area that we could make a meal for the firefighters.”
Those issues have finally been addressed and ongoing work on the firehouse began in March. The renovations will make the building compliant with all mandated regulations.
“We are ripping off the admin side of the building, and we kept the engine and apparatus bays, but were renovating them also,” said Monroe Township Council President Joseph Marino.
“It’s going to look like a brand new building when it is all said and done.”
The renovations are made up of two phases. Phase one is the “facelift” to the apparatus bay, and phase two involves renovations to the administrative building. Renovations have been expedited, so the anticipated completion is set for October. Phase two is expected to be completed by March, 2021.
“We originally started out with a two-story administrative side,” Solomon said. “We came back[…]We decided on a single-floor idea to keep the cost as financially responsible for the taxpayers.”
The renovations to the firehouse will include a full-size commercial kitchen and bunk rooms with male and female showers and lockers. A new sprinkler system will be installed throughout the apparatus and administrative areas.
The building will be energy efficient when it comes to heating and air conditioning and will be updated with new radio technology. It will also have a certified training room for members to train with the division of fire safety, and specialized decontamination showers.
Plans for the firehouse went through many changes after first being presented in 2013. The original idea was to buy a piece of land on the Black Horse Pike and build a brand new firehouse. That idea was tabled until Marino joined township council in 2017; he then asked the board why it should renovate the building instead of starting from scratch.
“The previous admin had bought a piece of ground on the Black Horse Pike nowhere near Cecil’s residential community,” Marino recalled. “We fought like crazy to get this renovation put back on the books. The new fire station would have cost five or six million, and we were able to renovate at half of that cost and still be closer to the community.”
Once the board decided on renovations to the standing building, it took until 2019 to finalize construction plans. Work finally began this year with a budget of $2.3 million.
“It’s a well-needed renovation that has been long overdue,” Solomon said. “Members and the officers are all excited about the overall project; it’s going to move us into the next level. It’s not going to change anything about what is done on a daily basis, but it just makes it a little easier for the members when it comes to training and staying there for two or three days.”