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Estimated $3 million to replace West Chester’s oldest fire station

Replacing fire station 73 in West Chester Twp. could cost about $3 million but officials say their oldest station is cramped, inadequate and potentially jeopardizing the safety of their first responders.

The township trustees recently approved hiring an expert to help them decide what to do about the dilapidated station on Duff Road near Interstate 275. Fire Chief Rick Prinz said while there are a lot of variables involved, his research tells him to build a modern station that will be adequate for decades could cost about $3 million.

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Prinz said he doesn’t believe the township will need to ask residents for more money to cover the $3 million because Tax Increment Financing and other funding options are available.

Built in 1970, the original station was really nothing more than a pole barn with two bays for vehicles — only one side has openings on both ends so the vehicles don’t have to back out on busy Duff Drive — then offices, sleeping quarters and other fire station necessities were added in 1992.

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Officials agree the station is inadequate but Prinz said there are some aspects that are safety concerns. The turnout gear for the three-to-four firefighter/paramedics who man the station, are stored in cages right next to the Quint fire truck, so close it’s hard to get things in and out of the truck.

The proximity to the fumes from the vehicles and sunlight that streams through the open bays is degrading the fabric and making the equipment potentially unsafe, according to the chief.

Workout machines, which are critical to keeping firefighters physically fit and injury free, are stored in a room barely big enough to fit one person — overflow equipment is in the furnace room.

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Other features that are not necessarily safety concerns are the cramped sleeping quarters and lockers that sit in a hallway, providing zero privacy. The firefighters’ community room doubles as a training room, so personnel hooked up to the computer there for joint training with the other stations, have to try to concentrate over the din of people cooking, eating and relaxing.

Trustee Ann Becker said they must address their “forgotten” station but they want the public’s input in that decision.

“It’s important to get the public’s buy-in, let you guys see what’s going on there, because it’s one of our essential services,” she said after the board approved looking for an expert.

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