BERLIN – Construction of a new station for the Berlin Fire Company kicked off with a groundbreaking ceremony this week.
On Tuesday, Berlin Fire Company (BFC) officials, county leaders, community organizations and representatives with local construction and architecture companies celebrated the upcoming construction of Station 3 with a groundbreaking ceremony at the fire company’s property on Route 50 near Sunset Memorial Park.
David Fitzgerald, president of the fire company, told attendees this week the new station would serve residents to the east of town.
“Our purpose and our motto is service for others,” he said. “That is what we are here for tonight.”
Fitzgerald said ongoing development to areas east of the town of Berlin prompted the fire company to pursue plans for Station 3.
“Our geographic area has not grown but development has grown,” he said. “We all know what has happened in the east side with Walmart, Home Depot, Glen Riddle, Oceans East, the high school and middle school we are proud to serve … That’s why we are here.”
Though the BFC has operated a substation on Route 50 for nearly 10 years, Fitzgerald said the planning process for building a new, larger station began nearly 20 years ago. He recognized the late Del. Bennett Bozman, a BFC member, for being instrumental in launching the fire company’s efforts to establish a Station 3.
“He lived on Gum Point Road and he was instrumental in starting some of this process,” he said. “Of course, he was a little biased as he lived on the east side of our fire district.”
After looking at properties across from Ocean Downs Casino and near the Home Depot, Fitzgerald said the fire company eventually settled on a piece of property near Sunset Memorial Park. He also recognized the Bill Hall family for discounting the price of the land.
“We’ve been here for about 10 years renting and we’ve been operating from this area,” he said. “We are proud to show you what we are planning to do.”
The facility will feature three bays, bathrooms, a mechanical room and a communication/computer room. Fitzgerald said the fire company will use donations, pledges and fire call grant funds provided by the Worcester County Commissioners to finance the project.
“The county commissioners are very generous during their budget time and they look out for public safety …,” he said. “We use our out-of-town run funds to help do this.”
Commissioner Diana Purnell, president of the board, praised the fire company’s new station.
“It’s always a pleasure to see growth in our county and to see the growth that takes care of our county,” she said. “That is what our fire department is doing for us. You take care of us. You are right there.”
Commissioner Bud Church called the new station a “life-saving feature.”
“It is a welcome addition to Worcester County,” he said. “We do what we can to support all of the fire companies.”
Commissioner Merrill Lockfaw said the new fire station highlights the importance of fire services throughout the county.
“I’ve been in the fire service for 48 years and I was chief in Pocomoke and I tell you that Worcester County is so fortunate that all of our fire companies come together,” he said. “It’s like a great family. They can all be counted on. Worcester County is really fortunate, I think, to have Berlin and all the other fire companies throughout the county.”
Tuesday’s groundbreaking ceremony also featured speeches from representatives with Davis, Bowen and Friedel and Willow Construction and a check presentation from Taylor Bank, which donated $50,000 to the Station 3 Building Fund.
“We hear the calls, and the fire engines ride by my office several times a day,” said Ray Thompson, the bank’s president and CEO. “And I can tell you that you guys do a fantastic job. We thank you and we are very happy to be part of your project.”
Fitzgerald recognized community partnerships for supporting the new station and encouraged individuals to continue donating to the fire company’s building fund.
“We are still about $800,000 short,” he said. “The fund is still open to donations and pledges.”
Officials said construction on Station 3 could begin as early as next week and will take approximately 10 months to complete.
“I’m glad to see we are finally getting started,” Fitzgerald said, “and I look forward to see those bulldozers moving later next week.”