OCEAN CITY — Replacing the aging midtown fire station at 74th Street could be getting a surprising move up the town’s capital projects list if at least one councilman gets his way.
During budget hearings this week, the Mayor and Council got a detailed presentation from the Ocean City Volunteer Fire Company and the conversation inevitably turned to the aging and outgrown midtown Station 3 firehouse at 74th Street. In recent years, resort officials have been discussing replacing the aging fire station, but it has continually fallen further down the list of projects deemed critical in the town’s capital improvement plan (CIP).
In the most recent iteration of the CIP approved earlier this month, the replacement of the midtown fire station was listed as “very important” according to rankings compiled by the Mayor and Council and the staff’s own rankings. There has been some discussion in recent years about relocating Station 3 to 65th Street in the Public Safety Building parking lot.
In fact, funding was approved for a feasibility study for the move, but those funds were later redirected for short-term improvements at the current location at 74th Street including conceptual design and funding estimates for the future renovation or rebuild.
During Monday’s budget hearings, Ocean City Volunteer Fire Company President and 2nd Assistant Chief Jay Jester explained to the Mayor and Council the importance of replacing the aging midtown firehouse.
“The midtown fire station debate has been going on for a decade,” he said. “It’s becoming obsolete sooner rather than later. It’s been band-aid after band-aid after band-aid.”
The notes in the capital improvement plan justifying the project spell out just how dire the situation with Station 3 has become.
“The existing fire station is no longer functional,” the notes read. “It lacks sufficient space for equipment and staff, does not have coed facilities, and does not meet the current fire station health safety standards.”
During the budget hearings that began last week and continued this week, each department presents its individual budgets with various special needs or shortcomings. The Mayor and Council then recommend certain items be brought back up during budget wrap-up sessions for reconsideration.
After hearing the concerns raised on Monday, and in the CIP, Council Secretary Tony DeLuca expressed a desire to revisit the midtown fire station renovation or rebuild issue during budget wrap-up sessions.
“I’d like to add Station 3 to budget wrap-up,” he said. “We hear about it all of the time. We should look at the timing, the cost and the next step. I know it was rated lower by the council, but I’d like to elevate it.”
There have been numerous discussions about relocating Station 3, but the fire department in recent years has expressed a desire to keep it in its current location. DeLuca said that issue needed to be resolved sooner rather than later.
“We have to have the discussion about tearing it down and rebuilding it on the same site, or relocating it,” he said.
Station 3 is included in the CIP as a placeholder with funding at around $5.5 million as part of a potential bond sale for other projects in fiscal year 2022. The Station 3 firehouse was first built in 1969 and expanded in 1987. It has been part of a larger fire station multi-year strategic plan that has included a complete rebuild of fire headquarters at 15th Street and the rebuild of Station 4, or the Montego Bay station.