B y Matthew Saari
An outdated electrical system, rotting floor and mold are just a few of the problems facing the Whitehall Volunteer Fire Company.
That’s why the department is working to obtain a $175,000 loan to fund some much-needed updates to its 104-year-old building.
Many of the prospective projects are to repair and update systems which are rudimentary but have been bypassed because of prioritizing fiscal concerns. The entire electrical system needs an update. The floors on which the fire trucks rest sag under the weight of a person because of rotten and mold-speckled sub-flooring.
“Basic maintenance,” said Brian Brooks Sr., president of the fire company.
Obtaining and paying off a loan through a bank is the “cheapest option in the long run,” said Brooks. Any applicable grants would require the building to be on the Historic Register and even then the grant would only pay for half of the requested amount, and the fire department would have to pay the remainder. And there’s no guarantee the department would obtain the grant – the application process is lengthy and there is a long line of applicants.
Brooks said he believes the amount requested will be more than adequate to cover the repairs and have some money left over to purchase and renovate a training facility for the firefighters, to conduct basic firefighter drills: window and multi-story egress, wall breeches.
Brooks said he has his eye on two possible properties: a dilapidated structure across from the fire house on Main Street, currently vacant and cordoned off to keep pedestrians away from possible falling debris, and the old Troy Shirt Factory located on Mountain Street.
Now, if the fire department wants to engage in a “live fire training scenario,” the firefighters have to drive to either Ballston Spa or Lake Placid, Brooks said.
Firefighters bring their own equipment from their local firehouse, which in turn means while they’re away honing skills there is a lack of coverage throughout their local district. Brooks said he is aware that taxpayers would be hesitant to a tax increase to fund a larger department budget, so the company opted for the loan.The problem, Brooks said, is that his firefighters can’t do their jobs appropriately. The only time the department operates their protective gear is during an actual fire or they have to drive in excess of an hour away from their coverage area.
With these renovations and expansions in place, Brooks said, his firefighters can “do the job of a firefighter every month.”