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Fire station construction could start in spring in Franklin Park

Tony LaRussa
| Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017, 9:00 p.m.
Franklin Park Volunteer Fire Co.'s planned new station.
Submitted
Franklin Park Volunteer Fire Co.'s planned new station.

A contractor hired to replace Franklin Park's aging fire station should begin demolishing the current building by mid-February, so construction can begin in early spring, fire company officials said.

The planned 1 12-story building will have 20,000 square feet of space — 5,000 more than the old station — and will have a higher ceiling.

“The ceiling in the old fire station is too low to allow access to the top of our trucks,” said Bob Jarvis, fire company president. “The higher ceiling also allows room for exhaust fans for proper ventilation, which is important in a garage.”

Fire officials will conduct a flag lowering ceremony Feb. 4 to recognize the years of service the building provided.

Borough and Franklin Park Volunteer Fire Co. officials considered refurbishing the current station, but a study determined it would be more cost-effective to build a new one, Jarvis said.

The building on Rochester Road dates to 1949 and would have needed expensive repairs, including a new roof, to bring it up to current safety codes.

The new firehouse will comply with the federal Americans With Disabilities Act. The current building has steps at the entrance and no wheelchair ramp, Jarvis said.

The project also will correct a traffic issue on Rochester Road. “It can be difficult for vehicles on that road to see the trucks leaving (the station) because we're coming out of the side of the building instead of the front,” Jarvis said.

During the year or so that demolition and construction will take, the fire company will park its vehicles and store gear in the borough's public works garage and at a fire substation along Wexford-Bayne Road, Jarvis said.

Mark Edelmann of EPM Architecture in Bradford Woods, which designed the project, said the new station will be masonry and brick with a seamed metal roof.

The garage portion will have four bays, including two that are drive-through.

“That design helps improve response time by allowing vehicles to leave immediately from the front of the building, and eliminates the need to back the truck in when it returns to the station,” he said.

More usable space will be created by eliminating room for events such as receptions and bingo, which no longer represent significant revenue sources for the fire company, Jarvis said.

The building also will have a fitness center and sleeping quarters for a “live-in” program the department is developing.

“The program is geared toward college students who are interested in a place to stay free of charge in exchange for becoming an active member of the fire department,” Jarvis said. “Because they are living at the firehouse, these people would be the first crew ready to go out on calls.”

EPM has designed several fire stations, including three in the North Hills.

The construction contract was awarded to Jerry Horn Construction in Franklin Park.

The $4.8 million project is being funded by a 20-year bond issue.

In 2014, fire officials asked the borough to consider a fire tax to pay for firefighting operations and the new building and equipment.

Borough leaders instead increased property taxes starting in 2016, from 1.077 mills to 1.29 mills. This amounted to a $55.87-a-year tax bill increase for a property assessed at $262,300, the median in the borough. The tax rate is unchanged for 2017.

The all-volunteer company has about 65 active members, including 30 who regularly are able to respond to calls. The company answers about 250 calls a year.

Tony LaRussa is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-772-6368 or tlarussa@tribweb.com.

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