Safety services complex in works

Mansfield Township public safety complex could include space for the Fire Department, Police Department and emergency medical technicians.

By: Eve Collins
   MANSFIELD — Township officials now have a new idea for the firehouse that they promised residents, but have tweaked their plan to possibly include space for emergency medical technicians and police.
   Members of the Township Committee appealed to the Mansfield Township Board of Education at the board’s Jan. 12 meeting to donate land near the township’s new elementary school for what they are calling a public safety complex that would include space for the Fire Department, Police Department and EMTs.
   Superintendent Joseph Bruni said the school board voted to work with township officials on the project.
   "They were very preliminary in their proposal, but the board agreed to work with them," Mr. Bruni said. "They still have a lot of work to do."
   The Mansfield Elementary School is located on Mansfield Road East and Island Road.
   Mayor Patrick DeLorenzo said the project is "in its infant stages." That includes size and plans for the building, as well as cost, he said.
   "We all agree that we need fire protection on the eastern side of town near the school campuses," he said Monday.
   Northern Burlington High School and Middle School also are located on Mansfield Road. Approximately 3,000 students are educated at the three schools, officials said.
   Northern Burlington schools also serve students from Chesterfield, Springfield and North Hanover townships.
   A second elementary school, John Hydock Elementary School, is located on Locust Avenue in Columbus.
   Although township officials have not yet provided a timeline for the new plan, officials with Franklin Fire Company No. 1 have said that they would like to see a new headquarters built by December 2005.
   Mr. DeLorenzo said Police Department officials also have been asking for new facilities, including a holding cell. "Their current location is somewhat old with limited space," he said.
   "The future of firemen could very well be that they are dually trained as EMTs as well as firefighters," Mr. DeLorenzo said. "This proposed building could help bring these two valuable agencies under one roof, as well as our law enforcement personnel."
   Mr. Bruni said the complex would be a benefit to the two school districts because response time to the area would be very fast in an emergency.
   Other locations for a firehouse have been up for discussion, including the property purchased last year by the township near the Municipal Complex on Atlantic Avenue; land near the Civic Center off Route 206; and a parcel located at Florence-Columbus and Petticoat Bridge roads.
   The current fire headquarters is located on Atlantic Avenue.
   In October 2003, the governing body approved $3,000 for a needs assessment study for the building by an architect who specializes in designing emergency services buildings. The money would pay for a plan that will show officials what kind of space is needed for the project and give a cost estimate, officials said.
   Mayor Patrick DeLorenzo said a new study now could be needed.
   "Having all three housed in a public safety complex (police, fire and EMT) could be cheaper to build and more efficient to operate," Mr. DeLorenzo said. "The thought is to provide the taxpayers with an essential service while trying to minimize the cost."
   The Fire Department is made up of approximately 35 volunteer firefighters. Department officials hope someday to have a paid staff housed at the proposed firehouse.