HOWELL – After years of planning, municipal officials cut a ribbon and opened the new Howell Emergency Services Annex, Windeler Road, on the morning of March 26.
The building on Howell K-8 School District Board of Education property near the Land O’ Pines school was renovated into the new facility. The annex will house emergency response vehicles and serve as a secondary resource to Howell’s primary Emergency Operations Center in the municipal building on Route 9. The annex contains a break room, bathrooms, showers, storage space and a training room.
Mayor Theresa Berger, Deputy Mayor Robert Nicastro, Councilwoman Evelyn O’Donnell, former mayor Bill Gotto, Police Chief Andrew Kudrick and representatives from the Department of Public Works, the Office of Emergency Management, emergency services agencies and Howell’s fire companies were on hand for the ribbon cutting ceremony and a tour of the building.
Gotto said the project to convert the building into a modern emergency services facility originated in the mid-1990s.
“There are a lot of people who put this together who deserve a lot of credit because in the (1990s), the truth is that all of the entities in town did not really get along and did not talk to each other that much,” he said. “The right people got together and at least the shell of the building was done. Unfortunately, it sat for a while and we did not get the mission right. Through Chief Kudrick’s insistence with the extension of the (emergency) aid service and EMS there was a need to give (the building) a new mission.”
Gotto said the individuals directing the project had to get the right people in the room and figure out what needed to be done. He said Jim Herrman, Howell’s director of community development and deputy township manager, did a great job on that aspect of the project.
“The last time I was here there were no floors, no heat and no lights. It was kind of an embarrassment and to see what it has become now is just fantastic,” the former mayor said, adding his congratulations to everyone who has “had a history” with the building.
“Emergency services is a big deal in this town. We have a lot of residents, a lot of needs and a lot of hazards, and we have to take care of all those people and hazards, and this building is going to go a long way in doing that,” Gotto said.
Berger said since she became mayor in January 2017, municipal departments have worked together for the benefit of Howell.
“That makes me proud because when I speak to anybody outside of town, I am extremely proud to say I have one of the best police, emergency management and public works departments in the state,” Berger said.
Nicastro said, “This building is going to serve the residents well, it was longer overdue. Mayor Gotto alluded to some of the challenges and hiccups we have had over the years, but as we say, we are not looking in the rear-view mirror any more. We are looking forward and this is how Howell is moving forward.”
“When you get the right people in place, things happen. I am very proud to be part of this,” Kudrick said. “I was here when I first saw (the building) get constructed and twenty-something years later, here we are. If you look at the (emergency response vehicles), all new, all stocked with the latest technology … it is a credit to the Township Council and everybody else in town who can actually make that happen.”
Kudrick thanked council members and the township manager for funding the project and said, “this is great, it is something I absolutely wanted to see during my tenure as chief.”