$10M Building, Fire Companies’ Potential Merger, Planned For Downtown Toms River

Photo by Chris Lundy

TOMS RIVER – Two public information sessions will be held in reference to the potential moving of two fire companies under the roof of a new building to be built in downtown Toms River.

The meetings will be held from 7-9 p.m. on April 20 and May 2 in the L. Manuel Hirschblond room in the Toms River Town Hall, 33 Washington St.

Photo by Chris Lundy

The meetings are ahead of a special election for residents on Saturday, May 13, from 2 to 9 p.m. Residents will be asked to consider bonding for a new building that could cost an estimated $10-14 million, Toms River Fire Department Business Administrator Brian Kubiel said.

The building would replace two existing fire company buildings. It would be located on the north side of the Irons Street free parking lot.

There is a conceptual plan as to what the new building would look like, but it has not got to the point of having an architectural plan, he said.

The building would be a replacement for the two companies, 1 and 2, which have fire houses less than half a mile from each other, both in downtown Toms River. Fire Company No. 1 is located on Robbins Street. Fire Company No. 2 is located on Water Street. If the new building is built, both firehouses would be vacated. Robbins could be restriped to make up for the parking spots that would be lost by building on the Irons Street parking lot, he said. The new location would retain some public parking as well.

According to a parking study performed in 2014, there were 12 parking spots allocated for fire departments in downtown Toms River.

Kubiel said that the department worked with the township to make it beneficial to the entire town. When the two stations are vacated, the individual companies could sell them and then there would be two prime real estate spots in downtown Toms River that could go back on the tax rolls.

Being uphill, it gets the fire department out of the flood plain, Kubiel said. Every time there is a major storm, there is the potential for the Water Street building to be flooded. Fire departments need to be able to respond to emergencies, not be the victims of them.

The two companies would have have the option of merging, he said, with no set timeline.

Over the course of time, the department will look at the stock of vehicles and equipment and see if any are redundant due to them joining forces, he said.

He said that in time, the new building would pay for itself. The most immediate cost savings is that the department would not have to continue to rent office space at 1144 Hooper Ave.

The costs of operating two buildings would be reduced to just one, he said. The costs of maintaining two old buildings would be reduced a great deal by just maintaining one brand new building.

Photo by Chris Lundy

Architectural firm Manns Woodward compiled a list of issues the old buildings are dealing with: deterioration of outside facade, roof deterioration, noncompliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, overcrowding of personnel living space, inadequate vehicle exhaust systems, building layout does not promote safe responder circulation, and not being energy efficient.

Additionally, Company One is unable to fit the current ladder truck within the engine bay. Also, every time a truck leaves or backs into the Water Street garage, a fireman has to go in front and stop traffic. This is neither safe nor convenient, he said.

If the two old buildings were renovated, the cost of bringing them up to modern code would likely be more than the price of a new building. The way the buildings are situated prevents them from being able to be expanded, either. The logistics of relocating personnel and equipment during renovations would be costly and threaten response time.