New vote for fire station

District 2 seeks approval for new station

By: Stephanie Brown
   MONROE — Fire District 2 will have to ask voters one more time for approval to build new fire station/EMS facility.
   Voters approved the original $3.8 million bond referendum in February 2006, but since the proposed location for the station has changed, the district will have to present plans to the public again.
   The $5.4 million facility was slated for the intersection of Applegarth and Cranbury-Half Acre roads on property donated to the township by a developer. However, contaminated concrete was found at the site and township hasn’t accepted the property.
   Fire District 2 Commissioner Glenn Borsuk said the price tag of the facility may increase slightly due to building cost increases.
   New plans place the fire station/EMS facility on about 3 acres at the intersection of Applegarth and Halsey Reed roads.
   The proposed site is part of a larger, 20-acre parcel donated to the township for municipal use by Stratford Developers, LLC. Stratford provided the property as part of its general development plan approval for Stratford at Monroe. The township plans to use the remaining 17 acres for a new senior center.
   Mr. Borsuk said the district needs a new fire station because it has outgrown it current station at 130 Applegarth Road.
   "We’ve stretched the capacity of that building as much as we can," Mr. Borsuk said.
   The district is an around-the-clock paid operation supplemented by volunteer firefighters from the Applegarth Fire Company.
   Commissioner Maurice Mahler said the new station would provide the district with a much-needed state-of-the-art facility.
   He said the current station is more than 40 years old and doesn’t provide the staff with amenities, such as sleeping quarters.
   "Right now our firemen have no place to sleep," he said. "They’re sleeping behind file cabinets (in a makeshift bunk)."
   Both commissioners said the more centralized location would mean faster response times, especially to the district’s gated communities — Clearbrook, Concordia, Encore, The Ponds, Renaissance, Renaissance at Cranbury Crossing and Stonebridge.
   Mr. Borsuk said the original plan was to split the cost based on the amount of square footage. The fire district was to pay its share based on the amount of square feet allotted to the fire station and the township was to pay its share based on the square footage of the EMS portion. He said it came out to about one-third township and about two-thirds fire district.
   The original site was supposed to be donated by Edgewood Properties as part of its general development plan approval for Applegarth Professional Center.
   However, the property was found to contain contaminated concrete fill from the decommissioned Ford Motor Co. in Edison. The Department of Environmental Protection ordered Ford in March 2006 to clean up the site. The state and Ford are still developing a cleanup plan.
   Given the unknown delays caused by the contamination problem, the township opted not to accept the parcel, township Business Administrator Wayne Hamilton said.
   Mr. Borsuk said the fire district never exercised the voter-approved bond due to the contamination issues.
   Since the original referendum was site-specific, Mr. Borsuk said, the district needs to go out for another bond.
   He said the district’s architects, The Spiezle Architectural Group, of Trenton, is drawing up a full layout of the new facility. Mr. Borsuk said the architects will project construction costs by the end of the month based on their design.
   Mr. Borsuk said he is anticipating the cost of the project to be more than the original $5.4 million price tag.
   "My guess is that’s it’s going to be slightly higher if for no other reason than the construction costs have gone up in the past year," he said.
   The district’s next step, he said, would be to meet with the township to determine the breakdown of the costs.
   He said the district would most likely have the same partnership with the township in paying for the project.