By Angela T. Koenig
SPRINGFIELD TOWNSHIP - Backing a fire truck into its holding bay takes patience and skill, especially in Springfield Township, where the 1950s fire station is ill-suited for large, modern equipment.
"Our trucks barely squeeze in," Assistant Fire Chief Rick Browe said of the current fire department headquarters at 8375 Winton Road.
By this time next year, however, maneuvering in reverse here will be a thing of the past, as construction moves forward on a new Fire Department Headquarters - with convenient pull- through bays - adjacent to the Township Administration Building, 9150 Winton Road.
The $5.6 million construction project, which broke ground Friday, will provide the township with a state-of-the-art, 28,000-square-foot fire facility, and add 6,000 square feet to the existing administration building.
"The overall project will continue to provide excellent services and continue to move us into the future to meet the needs of the community," said Gwen McFarlin, president of the township trustees.
In additional to providing five truck bays, training space, equipment storage and offices, the new fire headquarters, Browe said, also will be more user-friendly for the department's 22 full-time and 65 part-time firefighters. Now, he said, firefighters all share a common bunk area. The new station will have 11 individual bunk rooms.
According to officials, a 2001 study concluded the existing facility did not meet the township's needs, and that a shared-space approach with administrative offices was less expensive than renovating the current fire facility.
"When it's done it will all look like one big building," said township Administrator Mike Hinnenkamp. That proximity of the two departments - with a common lobby - will provide residents better access to township offices.
"There are no additional levies tied to the construction," the administrator said, as the project is part of a $12.5 million facilities master plan, paid for by a June 2002 bond offering. The bonds, he said, are being repaid through existing resources.
"It's not taking any money away from the taxpayers," McFarlin said.
Other projects included in the master plan are the expansion and renovation of the existing police department at 1130 Compton Road, which is under way, the relocation and construction of a Springfield Township Service Department Complex, from 8375 Winton to 950 Compton Road; and exterior and interior renovations to The Grove banquet hall - used for rental - on township property near the administration building.
Once construction on the fire headquarters is complete - expected for summer 2004 - the township plans to sell the property at 8375 Winton Road, which is zoned commercial, said Hinnenkamp.
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