Fire Chief Greg Rogers had good reason to grin after the City Council voted unanimously for a contract that set the stage for the construction of a new firehouse at the former Military Ocean Terminal.
The council voted to award a contract for the pile driving necessary to set the foundation of the firehouse at the Harbor Station South section of the former military base, the beginning stages of construction that could start in earnest in April if the council follows this up by awarding a contract for construction at its February meeting as expected.
“We’re hoping that’s what will happen,” Rogers said.
But he noted that the new firehouse would not have been possible without a $3.56 million federal grant the city received last year, thanks to the efforts of U.S. Sens. Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez (both D-NJ) and Rep. Albio Sires (D-8th Dist.) who drew down the funds through President Barack Obama’s federal stimulus package.
“It’s very close to the highway, so we can get to calls anywhere on the east side of the city.” – Fire Chief Greg Rogers
Located near the Harbor Station section of the Peninsula, a section close to Route 440, the station provides quick access to local highways and increases the department’s ability for rapid response, Rogers said.
“It’s very close to the highway, so we can get to calls anywhere on the east side of the city,” Rogers said.
In 2008, firefighters from the temporary facility responded to more than one-quarter of the city’s emergencies. Last year, it was the first on the scene of a critical electrical fire at one of the power generating plants near the IMTT chemical tanks.
Land sale and study led to new firehouse
The temporary station was constructed in 2007, when the city sold a portion of the MOTBY to Ports America for car import/export operations in an area where the old MOTBY firehouse had been located.
When the Peninsula was still in operation as a military base, the U.S. Army maintained its own fire department and built a firehouse there. When the federal government closed the base in 1999, Bayonne took over the fire service. But the sale of land forced the fire department to relocate.
Moving of the firehouse also coincided with a report by Matrix Consultants in December 2007 that recommended combining several operating departments at one location.
Rogers said the old Military Ocean Terminal Fire Station (Station One) was located too far east to be effective.
“The 34th Street Station (Station 5) was built over 100 years ago, when the demographics of the city looked significantly different than it does today,” Rogers said.
Since the 34th Street Station was located only seven blocks from another station, it was moved to provide more rapid response and wider coverage from the new location, which has immediate access to 34th Street, as well as to Route 440 and roads leading into the Peninsula at Bayonne Harbor.
The 5,000 square foot tent was installed at the edge of the Peninsula to temporarily house the units until a new state-of-the-art facility could be constructed. The city’s master plan calls for a new permanent structure to house the Fire Department located in the Harbor Station South area.
New firehouse fits with city’s downsizing plans
In the depressed local and national economy, the city had to find ways to fund the new building, so that the fire companies can be moved out of the tent and the firefighters moved out of the adjacent trailers they currently use as residences.
But the city has other fiscal reasons for establishing the new firehouse operations. In an attempt to reduce the city’s annual budget deficit, the city closed the Hook Road Firehouse at 330 Hook Road and reduced the number of companies in the city from 10 to nine, for an estimated savings of about $1 million a year.
In awarding the contract for timber pilings to be installed for the South Harbor Fire Station to Simpson Brown of Cranford for a cost of $186,500, Public Safety Director Jason O’Donnell said the council set the stage for the next level of development, which could come as early as February when the City Council looks over bids for the actual construction.
“We could see the start of construction as early as April,” O’Donnell said.
Overseen by the Barberi Group of Bayonne, architectural plans for the project were developed last year by RSC Architects of Cliffside Park to handle as many as eight fire trucks, and the site will include a training tower, operations room, living space for on-duty firefighters, as well as parking for their personal and other vehicles.