It's not a secret that for years the Greenwich Fire Department needs a new headquarters.
For starters: The limestone facade of the 1930s-era building is crumbling; the plaster walls and ceilings are falling apart—that's because the roof, windows and walls leak. Over the years there have been incidents illustrating the building is in desperate need of repairs—including the time when raw sewage backed up throught the pipes and flooded the main level of the Havemeyer Place facility.
Flash forward...well, not exactly flash forward—it's taken years to get to the turning point — a new home. In between calls, one engine crew had their first opportunity to see where they will be living for the foreseeable future—the temporary headquarters they will call home while a new permanent facility is built to replace the decripit original HQs. The $20 million project probably won't be completed until sometime in 2015.
Last week, Greenwich Patch toured the nearly completed temporary headquarters built by Wernert Construction Management, the Cos Cob-based general contractor. During the tour, the fire department's Group 4 who staff Engine Company 1 at headquarters and their Deputy Chief, Keith Millette, stopped by for an impromptu walk-through of their new digs, located in the Horseneck Lane commuter parking lot—at the corner of Shore Road, across the street from the Greenwich Boys & Girls Club.
"This is going to be nice," said Lt. Thomas Leonart, as he walked through a spacious kitchen outfitted with new appliances, oak cabinets and four food lockers — one for each of the crews who will be assigned to the station.
"I won't have to worry about chips of paint falling on my toothbrush or plaster dust falling into my eyes when I take out my contacts," said Millette, a 17-year veteran.
The odor of fresh paint permeated the rooms while the crew toured the dorm building that houses two-man bunk rooms, the aforementioned kitchen, the day room (a combination of a lounge, dining and living room), offices, gear and locker rooms, and a large bath and shower room, a Wernert employee was putting the finishing touches on painting.
Wernert's marketing director, Evan Burchell, estimated it'll be about a month before crews will be able to move into the building. The firm is working with the town's Buildings Superintendent Alan Monelli on the final details of the $992,000 project that also included the construction of a garage to house Engine 1, the deputy chief's truck and all the firefighters' gear. (The work began in January.)
Among the details to be ironed out are installation of phone, internet and cable lines, radio systems, and a traffic light in front of the station. Monelli could not be reached for comment.
The Wernert firm isn't an interloper when it comes to performing work for the Town of Greenwich. Wernert built a two-wing addition to and renovated the Glenville Fire Department headquarters in 2009; built the Greenwich Animal Control shelter facility on North Street and the adjacent equipment and storage facility for the town; and renovated the 'Art Barn' building as a station for Greenwich Emergency Medical Service at Parkway School.
In addition the fire department's temporary quarters, Wernert is busy this summer working on projects for Greenwich Public Schools, according to Burchell. The firm, which also is the town and Board of Education's on-call emergency contractor, is doing the bathroom renovations at Old Greenwich and Riverside Elementary schools at a cost of $483,000, and is completing the $400,000 second phase to upgrade the ceilings, lighting, and life safety systems at Central Middle School.
"We're glad to be working with the town and on this project," Burchell said of the firehouse project. "They so badly need the renovation work over there (at headquarters.)
The firefighters were impressed by the soundness of the new faciity. "It's suprisingly quiet in here. I thought it would be noisy in here with the highway," said firefighter Adam Jakubowski. The structures are literally a stone's throw from the southbound Exit 3 entrance ramp to I-95.
"It's nice. It's clean. I won't miss the mold and the smell" of the old building, said Lt. Jeff Locher.