BERLIN – The building long known as the town’s library will now serve as administrative space for the Berlin Fire Company.
Now that the Berlin branch of the Worcester County Library has a new location on Harrison Avenue, the Berlin Fire Company (BFC) has opted to use the old library building for office and conference space. David Fitzgerald, president of the BFC, says the community will be able to rent out the space for meetings and special events.
“It’s a win for the fire company and a win for the community,” Fitzgerald said.
The building, which was leased by the library for decades, has been vacant since last summer when the library moved to its new building on Harrison Avenue. Fitzgerald said Thursday the building’s mechanical systems were currently being upgraded but that work was expected to be complete within a week. When it is, the building will officially become the Berlin Fire Company Administrative Building and Conference Center.
“We’ve never had any office space for our officers to work, any private space,” Fitzgerald said.
While the BFC researched the possibility of adding on to the main station, Fitzgerald said estimates had come in at $1 million. He added that officials had also looked into converting some of the banquet space in the main building into offices. They determined, however, that in doing so they’d lose the ability to offer a 300-seat space to community groups looking to host special events.
Instead, the fire company will give its officers space in the old library building and will use the remainder of the facility for conferences and special events.
“We get a lot of calls for a facility that size,” he said, adding that the banquet hall in the main station was too large for a lot of groups.
He said the new space could be used for events such as the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office’s active shooter training courses.
“We really want to promote community activities there,” Fitzgerald said.
While the town’s elected officials encouraged the fire company to consider leasing the former library building to a local business to generate revenue, Fitzgerald said the property’s zoning wouldn’t allow for that. The fire company property — which predates the zoning code — is classified as R-2, a residential zone that also allows for some public and essential service uses.
“It’s not zoned for business use,” Fitzgerald said.
He added that by transitioning the building to office space, the fire company had opened up a little more room for emergency responders in its main station.
“This move freed up some shared office space,” he said. “Now there is a better bunkroom facility. They have a better area to sleep in and cook their meals in.”