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New fire and ambulance building planned in Sharpsburg

February 10, 2013|By JULIE E. GREENE | julieg@herald-mail.com
  • A stake marks the proposed site of a new building to house Sharpsburg Volunteer Fire Co. and Sharpsburg Area Emergency Medical services behind the companies' current locations in the 100 block of West Chapline Street.
By Yvette May/Staff Photographer

SHARPSBURG — Sharpsburg Volunteer Fire Co. and Sharpsburg Area Emergency Medical Services are planning a new, six-bay building to house both operations, although the companies will remain separate entities, officials said.

“Both departments have justifiable needs, just based on the size of our firetrucks and ambulances and the tightness of keeping them inside the building,” Fire Chief Allen James said.

The fire and ambulance stations are both in the 100 block of West Chapline Street; a gravel parking lot is between them. The proposed building would go between the two buildings, toward the back, so there is a larger driveway apron before the firetrucks get on the street, fire company officials said. A long storage building near the rear alley would be taken down to make room for the new building.

In January, Sharpsburg’s Board of Zoning Appeals granted a variance to the fire and ambulance departments because the new building will be constructed closer to an alley than town ordinances allow, Town Clerk Kim Fulk said.

“Pending the permit approvals and so forth, we are looking at the building being a little bit less than $1 million,” James said.

Fire and EMS officials hope to have the building finished by the end of the year, but that will depend on issues including county permitting approval and weather, James said.

Grant funding is being pursued and emergency service officials expect to seek a loan, said Lt. Jay Brandenburg, a member of the fire company who serves on the building committee.

The proposed building would be approximately 126 feet wide by 86 feet deep, James said. The bays would be deep enough so there would be room for a ladder truck, if the fire company were to get one, and two ambulances could be parked in one bay, he said.

The building would appear to be two stories high, but the front of the building would have open bays so cabs can be lifted for maintenance without pulling out firetrucks, James said.

West Chapline Street can become blocked when firetrucks are pulled out for maintenance work because the cab cannot be lifted inside the fire hall, James said.

The back of the new building would have two stories containing offices, bunk rooms, a kitchen, exercise facilities and other staffing facilities, emergency service officials said.

The current fire station isn’t large enough to house the larger firetrucks other fire companies bring when they temporarily staff the fire station or to house a large-capacity tanker truck, an acquisition that is a long-term goal for the fire company, James said.

The fire station also has weight limitations.

Several years ago, the fire company had contractors beef up the floor so it would support the company’s current firetrucks, James said. The floor could not support a large-capacity tanker truck or a larger firetruck, he said.

The ambulance station has age and space issues.

“We just purchased a new ambulance that currently fits within the bay space that we have. However, it is very tight,” said Damien Teal, assistant chief and administrator for the EMS company. The bay space didn’t allow EMS officials to buy a larger ambulance, he said.

Ambulances have gotten bigger over the years because they carry more equipment.

The cost of maintaining the ambulance station, which was built in the mid-1960s, also has gone up, Teal said.

The ambulance company is “at the point now where things are being replaced on a routine basis. The building is actually costing us more to run than it ever has,” Teal said.

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