HAMILTON: Voters to decide on firehouse proposal

Saturday voters served by the Hamilton Township Fire District No. 2 will be asked to support a $7.55 million referendum for a new firehouse.

by James McEvoy, Managing Editor
HAMILTON — Saturday voters served by the Hamilton Township Fire District No. 2 will be asked to support a $7.55 million referendum for a new firehouse.
   The plan, as was presented at the station on Nottingham Way Monday night, would include demolishing the station, which dates back to 1918, and building a 24,000-square-foot facility on the same footprint, albeit set back from the roadway.
   District officials as well as Robert Manns, architect for the project, provided a history of the district facilities, constraints of the current station and the tax implications of the project — a 5.5 cent tax incrase that would result in an approximately a $80 increase on a homeowner of a property assessed at $134,000.
   Response from the over 50 residents from the neighborhood in attendance ran the gamut from support for addressing facility deficiencies to opposition based on the tax implications as well as concern of a lack of time to process the proposal in advance of the Dec. 7 vote.
   Deputy Chief Chris Tozzi of the Mercerville Fire Company, said in addition to the postcards mailed to residents, press releases and information on the district website, that he would be on hand to answer questions or provide tours of the facility throughout the remainder of the week.
   Fire officials told the public they were seeking the referendum to address longstanding issues at the facility as well as addressing the issue of apparatus of being effectively able to depart the current firehouse.
   Among the specific infrastructure concerns is replacing the roof and addressing the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system.
   Scott Fairfax, district treasurer, said the district would ultimately apply for grants to offset costs as much as possible.
   Mr. Fairfax additionally said that the facility would result in less maintenance and energy costs.
   Fire officials and Mr. Manns both said public input would continue to be sought on the project after the vote, regardless if it is approved.
   In a press release issued before the presentation, officials said a full-scale renovation would cost approximately $7 million and two years to complete, only extend the life of the firehouse by 20 years.
   Rebuilding a new structure, according to the release, would extend the viability by 40 years.
   In the release, Assemblyman Wayne DeAngelo (D-14) expressed support for the referendum.
   ”These are the men and women who support our community, day in and day out,” he said. “Now it’s our turn to support them as I do, and we start with giving them the property tools to do their job to the best of their ability.
   Local officials were more cautious.
   Councilman David Kenny, who was in attendance for the presentation along with Councilwoman Ileana Schirmer, said he was skeptical about the proposal due to tax implications for Mercerville residents.
   He did, however, express appreciation for the district’s outreach efforts.
   Councilman Kenny said the matter, and similar efforts to pursue new facilities in Nottingham, underscored the need to pursue consolidation discussions.
   Polls will be open Saturday from 2-9 p.m. at the firehouse at 2711 Nottingham Way.