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Historic Schenectady firehouse may see new life

Historic Schenectady firehouse may see new life

A decaying fire station on Third Avenue will finally be fixed if the City Council approves the propo

A decaying fire station on Third Avenue will finally be fixed if the City Council approves the proposed capital plan included in the 2015 city budget.

The building has been in bad shape for years. Then-fire chief Robert Farstad called for it to be demolished in 2009, but ran into opposition because the building is considered historic.

It was built by the federal Works Progress Administration in 1938 to resemble the houses nearby, albeit with a three-bay garage. The second story has for years been in disrepair, however, some windows are covered by plywood, water damage has gone unrepaired and the roof is deteriorating badly.

Firefighters have also reported a persistent pest problem and say they can still smell the stench from decades-old diesel fuel spills. Most troubling, though, are the doors to the garage; they are not tall enough for 14-foot ladder trucks.

The capital plan proposes borrowing $300,000 for the work. The cost of renovating the station was estimated in 2009 at just under $1 million, but at that time, Farstad was campaigning for it to be demolished instead. Council members questioned his figures.

It’s not clear how much of the work will be done for $300,000. Logistically, the fix will be complicated. Mayor Gary McCarthy told the council firefighters will have to move out during the work.

“They’d have to close the station for some period of time,” he said.

Firefighters might park in front of the station or share a nearby Rotterdam station, McCarthy said.

The capital budget also calls for using a federal grant and borrowing $246,000 to pave part of Broadway and Guilderland Avenue. Broadway would only be paved from State Street to Millard Street, however. Councilman Vince Riggi vehemently objected to that, saying the rest of Broadway needs repaving, too.

“Guilderland Avenue, I don’t see a problem driving up it, but Broadway is terrible,” he said.

City Engineer Chris Wallin said the city got a $984,000 grant based on a federal Department of Transportation ranking of its streets. Of the six or more streets he submitted, including all of Broadway, Guilderland Avenue and the small portion of Broadway were considered worst, he said. They beat out many streets in other municipalities in four counties, he added.

Riggi disputed the ranking, though, saying that upper Broadway needs repaving too.

“That part of Broadway gets hammered. That can’t be right,” he said. “It may be a grant, but let’s use it where it’s needed.”

Wallin agreed upper Broadway needs to be repaired, but he said the street needs more than the 2-inch milling the city can afford to do on its own.

“Anything we do to Broadway now may not get to the root of the problem,” he said.

The road gets many tractor-trailers now, which he said are hurting the pavement. Old trolley tracks that still sit under the pavement aren’t helping matters, he added.

While a simple repaving job wouldn’t help in the long run, he said it could keep the road passable for another five years.

The city intends to spend $3 million on paving next year, beyond the work covered by the federal grant. Of that money, the city would receive half in grants and would borrow the other $1.5 million.

Wallin has not yet made his recommendations for which streets to be paved, saying he wanted to evaluate roads after the winter, but he said he would consider Broadway.

The capital plan also includes an optimistic view of the Oak Street bridge project. The city has estimated the cost of repairing the bridge at $2.2 million, of which the state and federal governments will pay $1.9 million, but McCarthy said engineers are still evaluating the bridge.

There’s still no word on whether the bridge can be repaired at all, much less an estimated bill. Still, he said, he wanted to put some amount in the budget.

“Those numbers could vary a little bit,” he said.

Wallin said the evaluation should be finished in December, with recommendations written in January and February.

The grants the city has received for the bridge can only be used for repairs, not replacement.

As the evaluation continues, the bridge is still closed, creating traffic jams on Broadway.

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