By CHRIS EBERHART
With Eastchester’s north end firehouse renovations near completion, Eastchester Fire District commissioners approved a $626,838 transfer from the reserve fund to pay for the work.
Fire Chief Michael Grogan said the renovations to the Wilmot Road firehouse included two new bathrooms, a kitchen and bedrooms on the second floor, an exercise room, which replaced the burner in the basement, a high-efficiency gas boiler, three HVAC systems that will heat and cool the six zones of the building—which are expected to save the fire district money—LED lights, a downstairs shower so the firefighters can wash without bringing smoke and chemicals from calls to the living quarters upstairs, and re-pointing work in the front and along the sides of the building.
Grogan said the original plan only focused on the living space upstairs, but the fire commissioners agreed to renovate the entire building and put the project out to bid.
CIBA Contracting Corp., the lowest bidder by more than $200,000, was awarded the project and, for the last seven months, has been renovating Fire Station No. 5.
Dennis Winter, the fire board chairman, was pleased with the renovation’s progress.
“I think they are moving at an expeditious rate, and we are working through our punch list now,” Winter said. “They’ve been very responsible and responsive to what we need.”
During the renovations, the firefighters were relocated to unoccupied residential buidings on Summerfield Street in Eastchester, where they slept, but showered and used a kitchen in a camper while two fire trucks were kept in the building.Winter said the living arrangements, “weren’t ideal but it worked.”
Winter said the project is ahead of schedule, and the firefighters should be moving back in to the Wilmot Road facility soon. He said the original move-in date was in December, but he hopes the firefighters will be back in Fire Station No. 5 shortly after Thanksgiving.
Grogan gave a brief history of the firehouse, which was originally built in the 1930s and was meant to house two volunteers and lighter fire engines weighing around 30,000 pounds each.
Today, Grogan said, the station houses at least four firefighters—sometimes five or six during storms or the holidays—at any given time and heavier engines, which weigh upwards of 70,000 to 75,000 pounds.
Winter said the fire district tried to renovate the building about three years ago, when Franchise Contracting was hired to replace the floors to be better suited to hold the heavier trucks, but issues along the way made the project a “disaster.”
“I don’t want to comment on it too much because we’re currently in the midst of litigation against them. We should reach a settlement in a couple weeks,” Winter said.
Grogan said this project and future renovation projects to Eastchester’s four other fire stations are “a must.”
“The buildings are in desperate need of attention,” Grogran said. “They are all old buildings. My newest one was built in the 40s…It would be irresponsible to let these buildings collapse.”
The current renovations were paid for by the fire district, but Winter said the reserve fund is depleted, and future renovation projects will require bonding.