Light at the end of the tunnel on firehouse project

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mc-firehouse1-0920 Finishing mason John Belfi of Milmay, who works for Sal Marandino, the contractor on the Margate Firehouse, puts the finishing touches on the outside stairs Thursday, Sept. 13.

MARGATE – A construction project that has literally been more than a decade in the talking and planning stages is finally nearing completion. The Margate Firehouse, located at the corner of Ventnor and Washington avenues will, if all goes well once again house the city’s firefighters and their equipment before we flip the calendar to 2013.

“I am really hoping we are in here by the end of the year,” Fire Chief Tony Tabasso said Thursday, Sept. 13. “With the windows going in and the roof on, the contractors can really move and they are not slowed down by the weather.”

The firehouse has had more discussions and studies than possibly any other city project in recent memory. There were plans under discussion over the years for an expansion of the station and even relocation to the center of town proved to be too costly and with the commissioners not willing to take on a huge debt to fund the project a discussion around the table finally put together a plan that gives the firefighters a modern and, more important, safe building to work from.

The 100-year-old building was in tough shape a few months back. After years of not working on the building, the outside wall gave way and was held in place by a piece of wood bolted to the side.

“The emergency repairs we made were done so that when we came up with plans for the firehouse renovation they would be incorporated and in the end save the city from additional costs,” Tabasso said. “This project is really coming together and it is a project that really happened because we could compromise. The engineer, the contractor - they have really been great to work with.”

The building has the exact footprint of the old firehouse save a set of steps outside the building that crews are working on. “The steps are a real safety feature. Our guys were coming down from the second floor on an old metal spiral staircase. Now those steps are gone and aside from how much safer this will be, we did pick up a little bit of storage space where the spiral staircase had been,” Tabasso said.

The building is much more efficient and will save money in the long run. The new energy efficient windows will keep the room warm, something the chief said the old ones did not do. A geothermal heating unit will keep the station warm for less money for many years. Another savings Tabasso said the city will benefit from is the heated sidewalk just outside of the fire station bay doors. “Shoveling and the chemical treatments to melt the ice and snow really tear up the sidewalk. It cracks; it freezes and then with the weight of the trucks going over the whole sidewalk just kills it. We won’t have that problem any more,” he said.

The bay floors have been recently jack hammered out by the contractor. “We are lowering the floors here so that we have enough clearance that whatever equipment we have will be able to fit in there. The clearance will be 12-feet, 4-inches when it is completed,” Tabasso said. “That will accommodate the equipment we have now including the ‘Quint’ which is the largest piece we own.”

“We have been very lucky that the weather has held out and we are lucky because we have been able to work out of Longport’s Firehouse,” Tabasso said. “I appreciate what good neighbors Longport has been.”

The building itself blends almost perfectly with Margate City Hall which is in the other half of the building with matching brick and trim work. And, not to lose its connection with the past, the original cornerstone from the 1912 Margate Firehouse is now front and center in the 2012 station.

This is a good building that will serve the firefighters and the city well for another 50 years. It is efficient and it is ADA compliant. The fact that the construction of the building along with new windows throughout all of Margate City Hall which were part of the project are expected to come in on time and at or slightly below the $2 million price tag approved, is icing on the cake.

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