METUCHEN – The building of a new Metuchen Emergency Services Center is a long time coming.
And for Fire Chief Rob Donnan and Metuchen EMS President Pete Fairclough, they look forward to working in an appropriate modern space that will meet the needs of their first responders, who are all volunteers.
“This is a gigantic step for us,” Donnan said, noting the wear and tear of the department’s current structure is a major issue from the roof to the bay floors.
Because of the structure, Donnan said it limits what their volunteers can do from inhouse training to cooking after calls.
The new emergency services center would essentially be the first built fire house for the department since it moved into the building on Middlesex Avenue in 1916.
“The original building was part of a private auto garage … it was never fitted as a fire department,” Donnan said, adding at one point, they shared space with the Department of Public Works and the police department.
Fairclough said the Metuchen EMS building has been at its location since 1948. It was rebuilt after a fire in 1963.
“Our biggest problems are the bathrooms … they are really old,” he said, adding to bring them up to ADA (American Disabilities Act) compliant would expend their budget for the year.
The Metuchen Borough Council approved an ordinance authorizing the acquisition and purchase of real property at 98 Essex Avenue from Valcari Essex LLC not to exceed $535,000 at a meeting in May. The property is in front of the Metuchen EMS building.
“The main obstacle has been the location for a new firehouse,” Mayor Jonathan Busch said. “You can’t plan for a project when you really don’t know where it’s going to go. The borough doesn’t have a lot of empty space to build, it’s been really hard.”
Discussions about the possibility of sites for a new firehouse began in 2015; however, discussions about needing a new building have spanned two decades.
“This is a huge step, a historical step,” Busch said.