Borrowing approved for bigger Berkshire fire station

Residents of the Berkshire Fire District on Tuesday approved a $3 million bond for construction of a

Residents of the Berkshire Fire District on Tuesday approved a $3 million bond for construction of a new fire station to replace the volunteer fire department’s current 60-year-old building on Route 29A.

The department’s engineers estimated the 30-year bond on the high side, said Bruce Heberer, Johnstown fire chief and chairman of the Berkshire Board of Fire Commissioners.

“We’re hoping the bids come back at a lower number than that,” Heberer said. “But there are time constraints and payments with contractors to sort out now. We felt comfortable with that number for our taxpayers.”

On Friday, the department’s engineers will send specifications to contractors who will bid on the project. Heberer said the fire district will award a contract to the best bid.

Heberer said he wants to break ground on the new station before winter, allowing time for its concrete base to set.

Fire Station No. 1 on Route 29A was built in 1951. Its wood frame and “home garage” size hasn’t been suitable for the volunteer fire department in a long time, Heberer said.

“Sixty years is a long time, no matter what fire station you’re talking about,” he said. “It was built in a different era, when trucks were smaller. It’s not designed for the trucks of today, and a lot of fire departments are building new firehouses because their buildings are becoming obsolete.”

The proposed 10,000-square-foot fire station will include four truck bays, one more than the current station, as well as meeting quarters, two bathrooms, a kitchen and a community room. The station will also serve as a shelter for the district, which covers the southeast portion of the town of Johnstown.

“It’s nothing fancy. There’s no ceramic tile going on,” Heberer said. “It’s functional. It’s been a long road and we all have our fingers crossed that we’re going to be able to afford this. We don’t want to spend $3 million. It needs to be good for the taxpayers of the district.”

Department engineers began planning a new design two years ago, but they were forced to scale back on their plans to something more affordable for the community. Heberer said the department’s goal was to fund the station at the district’s current tax levy.

“There’s a fine line between what we absolutely need and things that we want,” he said. “We’re down to building a building that we only absolutely need. We know what the district can afford.”

The new station will be built on land adjacent to the current building, property the Berkshire Volunteer Fire Department owns. Heberer said he hopes the new building is complete by next summer. Once it’s ready, the current building will be demolished and transformed into a parking lot.

Categories: Schenectady County

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