The $9 million bond project for the Washington Township firehouses is underway, with construction of a temporary structure at the Johnson Road fire station and that facility’s demolition expected to begin the first week of March.
“Renovations started at our East Holly Avenue station and our Hurffville-Grenloch station. Those renovations will be completed around the end of June,” said Washington Township Fire Department Chief Patrick Dolgos.
“The Johnson Road station, if everything goes well with weather and permits, we will be looking at the first week of March for demolition … We are looking at a completion around this time next year.”
The fire department renovations bond went out for a vote in November and was passed this month. It includes the cost of construction, professional services fees and architectural fees. The bond also includes payment for specialized services, new technologies and furnishings.
The Johnson Road firehouse will be demolished and completely rebuilt, while the East Holly Avenue and Hurffville-Grenloch firehouses will get upgrades to existing buildings.
“Obviously times have changed,” Dolgos explained. “We did a study over the years and we found that because of the growth of the community and the traffic and congestion, it was taking more than two minutes for firefighters to respond from their homes to the firehouses …
“As the years progressed we arated incorporating career staff as well as in-house volunteer duty crews,” the chief added. “The facilities were not really designed for that.”
The original firehouses were built in the ‘70s and renovated two decades later. They all need major upgrades, and some of the most important improvements include sleeping quarters, gender neutral and upgraded bathrooms and larger kitchens.
“What we are seeing now, is that because we have an increase in career staffing that works 24 hours, they need the living space and appropriate facilities to be able to conduct their business and have restful sleep during their shift,” Dolgos said. “Same thing for the volunteer duty crews: It allows them the facility necessary to cook and wash their uniforms.”
Other upgrades include safety features such as ventilated gear rooms and an upgraded direct connect diesel vehicle exhaust system that will emit exhaust outside of the building. Upgrades will also be made to the HVAC system and the parking lots.
According to Dolgos, the new firehouse will be 5,000 square feet, smaller than the existing building because the social hall was omitted from the new plans.
“The dynamics have changed; we are a service organization and our primary focus is providing safety to our community,” Dolgos noted. “We want to interact with our community and in our plans, we have a small community room which is going to be utilized for firefighter training on drill nights, and also available for civic groups to come in and conduct their meetings.”
The crew for all three firehouses numbers 112 firefighters, including 26 career members. Depending on duties, there can be up to a dozen firefighters sharing the common spaces at the firehouse. Dolgos considers them lucky to have had the support of the community to pass the referendum and allow for much needed construction.
“We are going to start doing things on our social media in the next couple weeks as we prepare for annual fire district elections and our budget,” Dolgos said.
“We are going to make sure our residents are aware of the process. We are going to update them and we are going to have a camera there 24/7 recording, so we can show the community every step of the process.”