A decade delay: East Berne volunteers break ground for new firehouse

The Enterprise — Michael Koff
Golden shovels wait Wednesday morning for the groundbreaking at 792 Helderberg Trail where construction for East Berne’s new firehouse is already underway. A picture of how the building will look is displayed on an easel.

EAST BERNE — As golden shovels rested against an East Berne fire truck, a dozen people gathered at the site of the new East Berne firehouse Wednesday morning.

Mary Alice Molgard, who chairs the board of fire commissioners, said she had recently come across the original permit for the new firehouse — dated 2013.

“That was when we were hoping to break ground,” she said.

The current firehouse was built in the 1960s and, since then, the size of fire trucks has increased to the point where housing them in the original structure was problematic. The Main Street firehouse couldn’t be expanded because it’s close to a creek and its infrastructure is old and faltering.

 Also, the current building is not in line with the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prevents the company from holding certain events there, including elections because it is not accessible to people with handicaps.

In July, residents in the 100-square-mile fire district approved spending $2.7 million for the new firehouse; the remainder of the $3 million project is being covered by the fire station’s capital improvement reserve. 

The property at 792 Helderberg Trail, formerly the site of a gas station, was purchased by the company almost a decade ago in anticipation of a building upgrade. The Regional Hilltowns Fire Training Center was built there about five years ago as a temporary structure, and, Molgard said earlier, the goal was to make it permanent.

Molgard spoke on Wednesday morning over the rumble and roar of construction work.

“As you can see, the project is well underway,” said Molgard, crediting contractor Bast Hatfield for “incredible progress,” naming the subcontractors, and singling out Lamont Engineers for praise.

Congressman Paul Tonko sent his “best wishes” from Washington, Molgard said, and the invited state officials were up past midnight working on the budget, she said, wishing them well as they caught up on sleep.

“We’ve had tremendous support from the county,” said Molgard as she introduced Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy.

McCoy said the community needed a place to take pride in and to train in. 

He credited the selflessness of the volunteers and said he hoped the new firehouse would attract new members.

“You are the backbone of the community here,” said McCoy.

“This is the East Berne firehouse but it’s the community’s place,” concluded Molgard.

Then, with the shout of, “Let’s grab some shovels,” the group did so as the event was recorded by the lone media present, Enterprise photographer Michael Koff.

More Hilltowns News

  • Anthony Esposito, who lost his house along State Route 145 in Rensselaerville when an SUV crashed into it, setting it on fire, said he had made several requests for guide rails because he had long been concerned about cars coming off the road. The New York State Department of Transportation said that it has no record of any requests.

  • Determining the median income of the Rensselaerville water district will potentially make the district eligible for more funding for district improvement projects, since it’s believed that the water district may have a lower median income than the town overall.

  • A Spectrum employee was killed in Berne in what the company’s regional vice president of communications called a “tragic accident” while the employee was working on a line early in the morning. 

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