The township’s Silver Lake Firehouse on Franklin St. has been shuttered as an unsafe structure.
Councilman Michael Nicosia said the building was declared a health hazard after the discovery that “it’s been infested with mold,” apparently the result of a persistently leaky roof.
“We’ve tried to patch it but the moisture built up to the point where mold developed,” Nicosia said.
Fire Capt. Scott Wentworth said the township is “in the process of having an engineering study done to determine how much of the problem is structural and whether the building can be rehabilitated.”
Since the firehouse’s closure several weeks ago, its engine company – three firefighters per shift – has been relocated about a mile away to Fire Headquarters at 275 Franklin Ave., Wentworth said. From that location, he said, the company continues to respond to fires in the Silver Lake district.
There are also building code issues associated with the Silver Lake Firehouse, Nicosia noted. “The [pumper] truck barely fits in the firehouse, we probably need new steps up to the second floor quarters and we probably have to relocate the kitchen,” he said.
About two months ago, Nicosia said, the township governing body authorized a Request For Proposals for a “design-build job” on the building. “The idea is we’ll let the architects tell us how they’d approach [fixing the firehouse],” he said.
Nicosia said the firehouse is still being used as a public polling place for elections, although he said it’s possible that the township may opt to switch the location to the newly rebuilt Friendly House – awaiting site work as the final touch – for the upcoming special election in October for U.S. Senate.
About three years ago, the township administration had proposed building a new Silver Lake firehouse behind a self-storage facility near the NJ Transit Light Rail stop as part of a capital improvements bond issue after NJ Transit had offered to put up $600,000 toward the construction but that plan was dropped after Second Ward Councilman Steven Rovell and Nicosia got enough residents to sign a petition opposing the bond. The lawmakers had argued that it would be wrongheaded to put a firehouse in such a location.
– Ron Leir