ROTTERDAM — After years of planning, scraping together funding, and pandemic-induced delays, upgrades to Rotterdam Fire District #2 received a $1 million boost this past week.
Much-needed upgrades on the firehouse’s parking lot, including stormwater improvements and a reconfiguration of an access road, began at the Curry Road facility a few weeks ago and are expected to wrap up by November, according to Kevin Thomas, a commissioner with the department.
But the parking lot improvements are just the first phase of a $1.8 million project expected to wrap up later this year or early in 2023. Plans also call for construction of a new two-story storage garage that will double as a training center for new members and a decontamination facility, allowing the department’s 40 active members to rid themselves of cancer-causing materials after responding to a fire.
The work on the new facility will likely begin shortly after the completion of the parking lot upgrades.
“It’s a big thing to be able to clean yourself and your gear after fires,” Thomas said. “We’ve been doing that in the main facility. Now that will be out in the garage.”
Response time will not be disrupted during construction, according to Thomas.
The department, which receives more than 300 calls annually, began planning the project roughly four years ago, not long after it acquired additional land following the construction of the Residences at Vista Square, a 208-unit apartment complex that opened adjacent to the firehouse in 2016.
Thomas said the additional space allowed the department to expand parking, a longstanding problem at the facility, while also addressing other issues, including storage, mechanical and plumbing upgrades, new lighting and additional landscaping and fencing.
The construction of a community pavilion is also in the plans. It will be complete with a kitchen, bathrooms and additional storage and utility rooms.
“It started as parking lot infrastructure,” Thomas said. “So that’s kind of what started the whole thing, and then it kind of moved forward to get additional storage and training facilities.”
To pay for the project, the department has been raising funds over the years, according to Thomas. The goal, he said, was to move the project forward without having to borrow or increase the burden on taxpayers.
“We work very hard every year to keep the tax increase at nothing, or very low in our district,” Thomas said.
Those efforts received a boost recently, when the department received a $1 million state grant to help cover the costs of the upgrades. The funds were presented by state Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam, during a media event last Tuesday.
The investment is the largest the department has secured and will cover a bulk of the project, said Thomas, who noted the remaining balance will be paid for with money the department has set aside over the years.
“Volunteer firefighters, such as those serving District 2 here in Rotterdam, are invaluable members of our community who run toward danger to protect others,” the commissioner said. “These dedicated public servants deserve facilities and equipment that allow them to perform their duties safely and comfortably.”
Contact reporter Chad Arnold at: [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @ChadGArnold.