On February 5th, the Representative Town Meeting (RTM) in Waterford authorized the town to purchase the Oswegatchie fire station and the adjacent land from the Oswegatchie Fire Company for $1.
This acquisition sets the stage for the town to construct a new firehouse estimated at $12.1 million, marking a significant development as it will be the first time the town has funded the construction of a firehouse for one of its five volunteer fire companies.
The current firehouse, reported to have numerous structural issues, is set for demolition once the new facility is built.
The decision comes after years of reported structural problems with the existing building, constructed in the 1930s.
The building has suffered from water damage, mold growth, and had to be shored up with support beams about 14 years ago.
Moreover, this past winter, the firefighters had to endure a lack of hot water and use temporary heat sources for approximately three weeks due to a broken pipe in the building’s boiler system.
Fire Chief Chris Pafias highlighted the project’s necessity, stating: “This is a long overdue project to protect Waterford’s citizens and property.”
The approval marks the final step in the acquisition of two parcels at 439 and 441 Boston Post Road, totaling 2.07 acres and appraised at $1.37 million in 2022.
The contract, signed by Pafias and First Selectman Rob Brule on February 2, includes a contingency that mandates the town’s construction of the building.
Failure to do so would result in the property reverting back to the fire company.
A lease agreement for the fire company to occupy space in the new building is anticipated before the RTM’s April meeting.
Despite some RTM members expressing concern over the timing of the contract signing and funding requests prior to finalizing the lease agreement, the body approved an additional $127,000 for hiring Silver Petrucelli + Associates to design the new firehouse.
This sum adds to $204,000 remaining from a previous design effort in 2018, with another attempt made in 2014.
The decision has not been without its controversies.
RTM member Timothy Condon raised concerns about the town’s commitment without a prior comprehensive review of fire services, as promised by the Ad Hoc Fire Services Review Committee.
Moreover, the release of the project’s estimated cost by Ted Olynciw, both an Oswegatchie Fire Station Building Committee and RTM member, was met with criticism from Jennifer Bracciale, who accused Olynciw of using “scare tactics.”
Despite these challenges, the committee, led by Robert Tuneski, is focused on finalizing designs and securing funding within the next 10 months, underlining the urgency of the project.
Building committee member Wayne Gilpin evoked the recent collapse of the First Congregational Church steeple in New London as a cautionary tale, emphasizing the risks of delaying the firehouse project.
The authorization for Waterford to purchase and rebuild the Oswegatchie firehouse represents a critical step forward in enhancing the town’s emergency response infrastructure.
By addressing the longstanding issues of the current firehouse, the town demonstrates a commitment to ensuring the safety and well-being of both its citizens and firefighters.
The project, while facing logistical and financial challenges, underscores the community’s determination to provide a modern and reliable facility for its volunteer fire service.
As the process moves forward, the involvement of local government, fire officials, and the community will be paramount in realizing the vision for a new Oswegatchie firehouse, serving as a testament to the collective effort in safeguarding the town’s future.