DUNKIRK – Members of the city’s Public Safety Committee are considering the possibility of consolidating Dunkirk’s three fire stations into one headquarters building.
Fire Chief Keith Ahlstrom gave a report Tuesday on the condition of the three stations.
He said the station where fire headquarters is situated at 311 Eagle St. is the oldest of the three and needs the most repairs. Ahlstrom said the headquarters station is in the best location of the three, as it is near the majority of the city’s population. He estimated that the building would need a new roof, electrical and technology upgrades, and repairs to plumbing. He said the building also has structural issues that need evaluation and repairs. The building was constructed in 1911.
The chief said the city owns a parking lot and a vacant lot next to the Eagle Street station, so there is room for expansion.
He reported that the station on Middle Road also needs major roof repairs. It has structural issues. He said that the walls are separating from the building and that plumbing, heating and electrical upgrades are needed.
The third station is the newest of the three buildings. It is at 104 W. Doughty St. and was built in 1969. The chief said he sees only minor repairs needed on the roof there and no major structural issues but some cosmetic issues and new windows.
“It really would make sense if we had just one building,” Ahlstrom said. He said he could anticipate that the argument from some city residents is that there should be fire equipment on both sides of the railroad tracks that separate the city. The Doughty Street building is on the opposite side of the tracks from the other two stations. The chief said that firefighters have learned to deal with trains that sometimes block the street crossings and that this is an issue that could be handled with good planning.
He said 85 percent of the population of the city lives on the side of the tracks that would be served by either the Eagle Street or Middle Road fire stations.
The chief said he expected there would be very little savings from closing one of the stations, but it would be more efficient for the staff. “The goal is to be functional and safe,” he said.
Councilwoman Stacy Szukala said she would support closing the Middle Road station if the city could possibly sell the building. She said it did not make sense to close the station on Doughty Street, as it is in the best shape of the three buildings.
Ahlstrom said he felt it was important that talks about the future of the fire stations remain on the agenda for city leaders. He said the idea of a regional public safety building is very appealing to him but it would take the cooperation of government leaders in other communities.
The chief also reported on volunteers who help the paid firefighters in Dunkirk. He said 14 people are active volunteers, with about six of them who have more than 10 years’ service. He said there are several volunteers who show up regularly.
The chief also reported that there are 11 members of the Dunkirk Fire Police Squad. He said all of them are active volunteers and they help the Police Department as well as the Fire Department in emergencies, traffic control and other areas.
Police Chief Dave Ortolano voiced his support for the idea of a regional public safety building. He reported that the expansion of city police services into the Town of Dunkirk has gone well. He said the contract will expire this June, but he expects that town officials will look to renew it, as there have been many positive responses.
The police chief also told city officials that his employees will have tactical training inside city school buildings while students are on spring break next week.