Study would look at Shelton Fire Department's infrastructure and needs

The city may commission a study to look at the Shelton Fire Department’s buildings, equipment and certain related issues.

Fire Commission members and Fire Chief Fran Jones want the study because some of the department’s infrastructure is aging and should be upgraded or replaced.

Moving the downtown Echo Hose facility on Coram Avenue to another location closer to the Bridgeport Avenue corridor has been considered, and the Huntington facility on Church Street needs to be renovated or replaced so newer apparatus can fit inside the structure.

Many of the firehouses have kitchens and restrooms that should be improved, and only Echo Hose now has bunk rooms.

Have facilities 'strategically located'

Jones said a new study should focus on firehouse locations and renovations, the best place to house various vehicles, where to put a maintenance facility, and finding a “centralized” location for the department’s administrative office.

When it comes to finding properties to possibly construct new facilities, Jones said, any new stations should be “strategically located” based on how the city is being developed.

The last firehouse to be built in Shelton was Pine Rock Park in 1979, officials said.

New sites?

The city owns land in locations that might make sense for new Echo House and Huntington stations, officials said at a recent Board of Aldermen Finance Committee meeting.

Aldermanic President John F. Anglace Jr. said this includes a parcel near Exit 13 (Constitution Boulevard) of Route 8, where a new Echo House facility could possibly be built.

“We need to know,” Jones said, “if that is the right place.”

Justin Sabatino, a fire commissioner and Pine Rock Park firefighter, asked, “How do we know what to do with the buildings” without a study?

Did the last fire study help?

The last fire study in Shelton was done in 2000, and Anglace questioned if the findings were ever acted on. He said the city spent $30,000 to $40,000 on that study “and got nothing out of it.”

Anglace said aldermen want a better idea of what fire officials want out of the study this time.

Sabatino said he agrees that the last study covered too many topics and never was used to implement changes.

Aldermen asked fire officials to give them a formal proposal on the need for a study, including the priorities of what a study would cover.

Height of the Huntington station

The city owns the four firehouses and most equipment used by the four volunteer fire companies. The companies are Echo Hose Hook and Ladder, Huntington Fire, Pine Rock Park Fire, and White Hills Fire.

There is some urgency with the Huntington fire station on the Huntington Green, with the roof being barely high enough for some equipment.

The aldermen may appoint the city’s Public Improvement Building Committee to work with fire officials on upgrading the Huntington fire station.

Replacement fund

Also discussed at the recent Board of Aldermen public hearing and Finance Committee meeting was the Fire Vehicle Replacement Fund, which is supposed to receive an annual allotment of $100,000.

Anglace said city officials have instead been funding the purchase of fire equipment by other methods, such as bonding or through the operating budget. “That has worked well for us,” he said.

He questioned if the ordinance establishing the replacement fund is needed anymore. “Why put money in over time and let it sit?” Anglace said.

Supports annual payments to the fund

Bruce Kosowsky, a White Hills volunteer firefighter and former fire commissioner, said he doesn’t understand why money hasn’t been put in the fund every year so vehicles can be refurbished or replaced on an ongoing basis.

Kosowsky said it’s wrong to keep “pushing out” the cost of fire vehicles through bonding. He said because of such an approach, the city “now need four trucks at a clip.”

Alderman Jack Finn said if money had been put in the Fire Vehicle Replacement Fund as it was supposed to have been annually, $2.2 million would have accumulated since 1991.

Finn also said if money was being set aside every year, the city would earn interest on it rather than paying interest when it instead bonds for new fire vehicles.

But Anglace said the $100,000 a year called for in the ordinance isn’t enough to buy a truck anyway. “We’re refurbishing it in a different way,” he said of the financial resources needed to buy fire vehicles.