The Maitland Fire Station’s dedication ceremony is 1 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 19, on Packwood Avenue between Maitland Avenue and Independence Lane. For more information, visit itsmymaitland.com
Maitland firefighters now have a home they can be proud of, about 12 years after the plan for a new station was hatched.
On Monday, the Fire Rescue Department started moving equipment into the new 15,500-square-foot, three-story Fire Station No. 45, built on the site of the former, much smaller station at Maitland and Packwood avenues.
They’re scurrying to be ready to show off their new digs to the public at a dedication ceremony at 1 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 19.
Fire Chief Ken Neuhard said the excitement is palpable.
“Everybody has been looking forward to this for so long, and to see it actually come together, it’s just absolutely wonderful,” he said.
The $3.8 million fire station, along with the police station and the underway city hall, was funded through a 2005 tax referendum in which citizens approved the borrowing of $8.5 million.
The fire station and city hall were originally part of the development agreement for Maitland Town Center, a mixed-use four-block development that failed to get off the ground after the housing market crash. Years later, city officials carved the municipal projects out the agreement, opting to build them separate of the downtown project and on the city’s own land.
“It’s probably been 12 to 13 years working toward this in one fashion or another,” Neuhard said. “There have been plans that have come and gone. This one actually materialized.”
Firefighters have spent the better part of the last year in a trailer across the street from City Hall that they affectionately call the “trailer hood”, Neuhard said. Before that, conditions weren’t much better.
Assistant Chief Bart Wright said the new building represents the true professional service that the department already provides.
“It’s like how some kids don’t want to bring their friends to see their home,” he said. “Now we can bring our friends to our home.”
Firefighters are anxious to move into the state-of-the-art facility, which will house a seven-person crew instead of the former three. And instead of dorm-style sleeping quarters, each firefighter will have their own private room complete with a bed and a desk during their shift.
There are also separate locker room facilities for women and men.
“When the original station was built, it was not set up for both genders,” Councilwoman Linda Frosch said.
The new building also features a kitchen equipped to handle meal preparation for seven, an important feature for firefighters working 24-hour shifts.
“The other kitchen was what you have at home for a family of three,” Neuhard said. “This is designed to serve a full crew.”
The station will also accommodate five administration officials and all of the department’s storage materials — both were previously located in rented space.
Neuhard is excited to be able to hold all training sessions for his employees on site. They’ll also be hosting community service classes, such as first aid and CPR, in their new facility.
“One of the things that’s so much appreciated is having a training room that… well just having a training room,” he said.
There’s no need to travel to the nearest fire tower to practice rappelling — they can do it right there, he said. There are anchor points for ropes on the backside of the building.
Also important to Neuhard is the new drive-through bays that allow the emergency vehicles to pull in through the back of the station and exit through the front, instead of backing the vehicles in, causing traffic delays.
Frosch, also a member of Friends of Fire Response Maitland, said the fire station is an accomplishment for both the firefighters and the citizens.
“It is truly amazing,” she said after doing a walk through of the new building Tuesday. “What’s really nice is it’s on the corner of the central part of our downtown. What a great cornerstone to be a strong fire station.”
Neuhard agreed. “I just want to thank all the citizens for recognizing the importance of the new station and seeing it through to fruition,” he said.
Sharon Anselmo, management services director, said contractor Wharton – Smith delivered the project within the $3.8 million budget.
It will now be submitted for LEED certification. The new city hall, being erected right next door, will be completed later this year.
Councilman Phil Bonus said the fire station would be a Maitland icon, a building that will set the stage for the city’s pending downtown revitalization.
“The chief and firefighters are proud of it and I understand why,” Bonus said. “Coupled with City Hall, it should be a significant statement.”