West Chester officials: Fire response won’t suffer from temporary move

Response times won’t be adversely impacted when the West Chester Twp. fire department moves into its temporary quarters for Station 73 while the new station is under construction, officials said.

Township Administrator Larry Burks said Fire Chief Rick Prinz, who spent about 10 hours driving around the township trying to find a suitable location, found a “needle in a haystack.” It is a warehouse rental for $81,500 at 4976 Provident Drive, very near the existing Duff Drive station.

Prinz said the final details in the lease agreement the trustees approved this week are still being worked out, but the location is ideal and will “keep response times respectable.”

“When we were looking for a space foremost on my mind was to have a space that was close enough to the existing station, to keep our response times as normal as possible,” Prinz said. “This location, only being 0.6 miles away, accomplishes that. We’re close enough to the existing station that our response times will not be compromised in the slightest.”

The fire department needs a drive-through bay, but the majority of warehouses have loading dock entrances, according to Burks. The fire department also will only need the space for about 18 months, a short time property owner Regis Commercial Properties, Inc. agreed to.

“Most leases are at a minimum three years if not five, most of the people Rick talked to wanted a five-year term on the lease,” Burks said. “Regis is willing to work with us and give us a 12-month lease and month-to-month after that. I really appreciate all the flexibility they’ve shown.”

Prinz said Regis is willing to sign the lease now but won’t require the first month’s payment until October. The plan is to start construction on Station 73’s replacement the first of the year.

The township is replacing its cramped, dilapidated and in some respects dangerous fire station, and trustees signed a $258,352 architectural contract with Emersion Design last month.

Trustee Board President Mark Welch said after a presentation in May that adding onto the existing 49-year-old building is fraught with potential pitfalls.

“For me there’s no question as to razing the existing structure and building a new one,” Welch said. “It was more expensive to rebuild the place. Like he says there may be other things that pop up with regard to maintenance because you’re connecting these roofs and it’s not a single roof and you get leaks and you get air gaps and all kinds of things.”

Preliminary cost estimates to build a new 10,000 square-foot station are about $3.5 million. Renovating the structure would cost $3.6 million. The price tag will likely drop because the fire department doesn’t need such a large station.

Prinz said they budgeted $500,000 for the building design, contingencies and the temporary space so they are still within budget.

Prinz told the Journal-News previously there are some aspects of the existing station that are safety concerns. The turnout gear for the three or four firefighter/paramedics who man the station are stored in cages next to the Quint fire truck, so close it’s difficult 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, Prinz said. The close quarters also means the men and women who work there are exposed to contaminants that can cause cancer.

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