Berkshire, NY (WBNG Binghamton) After six years and four public votes, the Berkshire Fire Department finally sees construction begin on a new fire station.
The Berkshire Fire Chief always said his department needed a bigger station, and after years of fighting for upgrades, he will finally see the hard work pay off.
"Everybody is always saying to me, you know it looks great," said Chief Brett Welch. "It looks great. We're happy to see something happening. It's finally happening."
The $1.1 million project will build a new station that's nearly twice the size of the old one.
"The progress is fantastic as far as code issues used to go," said Berkshire Code Enforcement Officer Leon Virtue. "The other one was totally falling down. It definitely needed to be replaced."
The new station will have room for all four fire trucks and an ambulance. Plans include a community center with a kitchen and dining area.
"We're excited that we can actually do things," Welch said. "When the trucks are parked inside the station we now have room to walk around, put hoses back on, take hoses off, wash them, clean them."
The new station will nearly double the square footage for the Berkshire Fire Department. The old station covered 4,000 square feet and the new building will be approximately 7,500 square feet.
"I'm hoping that having the new station will not only bring in some new people that would be interested, but also spark some interest in some of the older members that aren't doing a whole lot," Welch said.
The Berkshire Fire Department has nearly 100 volunteer members, but only about 25 of them are active.
"If we were to have any type of disaster," Virtue said, "Where we had to deal with chemicals, be it meth labs or anything like that, we're supposed to have a decontamination area."
The building will house the only decontamination room in northern Tioga county. The safety feature will also be available to nearby stations and EMS crews.
"Now it's much safer for the firefighters, which is important," Welch said. "We've got to look out for ourselves so we can look out for the community."
The new fire station is expected to be completed by August. Firefighters are planning a community open house as soon as it's open.