A month after authorizing the Broomall Fire Co. (BFC) to pursue plans to relocate its station to the grounds of the former Marple Grade School, 2641 West Chester Pike, the commissioners approved the documentation necessary for the land.
The board initiated the Memorandum of Understanding to begin the three-part process of subdividing the parcel, transferring the township-owned land to the fire company and conveying BFC’s current site, 10 Malin Road, to the municipality.
The decision is an about-face from the plan approved several years ago, when BFC received zoning and planning commission approvals to construct a two-story station on its present location. The members then returned in February with conceptual drawings for a one-story structure on a portion of the 10.55-acre property across the street.
Building on the adjacent parcel will offer design and financial advantages, said BFC President John Capuzzi during the presentation. The current site is less than an acre and constructing on the larger tract will provide a more efficient building, improved foot and vehicular traffic flow, additional parking, better sight lines on Malin Road and a greener building.
BFC has applied for a $3.25 million state Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program grant and commissioners have committed a contribution up to $3 million as a match. The building cost for the initial design, as of 2013, was estimated at $7.7 million and the one-floor structure would offer a savings of $1.5-$2 million based on the ability to purchase a pre-engineered engine bay and eliminating costs for the basement, demolition and temporary equipment storage, said Capuzzi.
BFC suggested giving the existing firehouse to the township, with the idea of converting the building into a senior or community center or home for the Marple Township Ambulance Corps, which currently leases space in the Lawrence Park Industrial Area.
The fire company also owns an adjacent house, which it has used as an annex, and suggested the possibility of repurposing the building as a police sub-station. The police department, which operated for 40 years in a structure adjacent to the township building, moved in February to the former Hi-Fi House, 1001 Sussex Boulevard.
The memorandum includes a 3.5-acre subdivision of the portion closest to West Chester Pike, transfer of the tract to BFC and, once the new firehouse is completed, conveying the current site to the township.
The board also named commissioners Jan Ceton, Rob Fortebuono and Joe Rufo and chair and vice chairs, respectively, of a fire company ad-hoc committee to act as a liaison between the groups. The board also approved the grant agreement for the township contribution.
Commissioners have also been eyeing the property, as the tract currently has a tot lot and they have considered creating multipurpose fields. Township Engineer Joe Mastronardo developed three plans with various numbers and sizes of playing surfaces, bleachers, a concession area and parking.
The fire station, fields and tot lot are not mutually exclusive, said President Joe Rufo.
“The goal is to try to maintain as much open space as possible with the fire house as close to the southwest portion of the lot as possible,” he added. “The tot lot will remain and the whole idea of fields on that property needs to be studied in light of the relocated fire station.”