The Aberdeen Fire Department officially broke ground Monday on the renovation and expansion of its main fire station on North Rogers Street.
About 60 people attended the groundbreaking ceremony, according to John F. Bender, the fire company's vice president and chair of the building committee.
The Rogers Street station was built in 1972 for $500,000 with an addition added in 1990 for more apparatus and storage space, Bender said.
"Today, 47 years later after this original building was built, we are breaking ground on a complete interior renovation of the 1990 addition," Bender said Monday.
Renovations had already begun last month before the official groundbreaking, and are expected to be completed in about three months. Then, the second phase of the project — demolishing the original 1972 structure and building a larger one-story section — is expected to begin in December.
"All of this is expected to be completed in 12 to 14 months depending on the weather," Bender said.
While the company’s firefighting equipment will remain at the Rogers Street station during construction, two of the company’s ambulances have been be moved to House 3 on Route 22.
The renovations to the Aberdeen fire station has been about six years in the making. Originally expected to cost about $5 million, “many iterations of the plan later, the total estimated cost is almost $9 million,” Bender said, once all related studies, testing, fees and other costs out of their control — like federal tariffs on steel and building code changes — were considered.
"I assure you that we are doing everything we can to save on cost wherever possible as we go along," he said. "Our goal, in partnership with the architect and contractor, is to bring this project in on time and under budget."
While the building still looks great from the outside, Bender said, the interior is a different story. The existing fire station has structural issues, was not well insulated and thus cost more to heat and cool, and didn’t meet many public accessibility codes. Several of its systems have also exceeded their useful life.
"In short, the building no longer meets our needs now and for the future, and it is expensive to maintain," Bender said.
At the groundbreaking, Bender spoke about how the fire service is constantly evolving and how, "just like the police department and the military, we have an obligation and responsibility to our members and the public we serve to be aware and keep up with these changes ... the public deserves and expects this level of service, and our members deserve to be protected as safe as possible, as they risk their lives every day to save lives and protect property. We take this responsibility very seriously."
He also used the opportunity to thank those who have contributed and supported the renovation project, financially or otherwise.
“You are our partners in this effort and we are grateful,” he said. “We could not do what we do without you.”
Aberdeen Mayor Patrick McGrady said the fire department is an integral part of the community.
“I’m pleased to have supported the efforts to rebuild their building to improve the capabilities to serve our city and county residents,” McGrady said.
County Executive Barry Glassman, who attended Monday’s groundbreaking, said he was glad the county was able to to support the project with a $1 million capital grant, one of the first his administration has been able to give for such projects.
Glassman, in a phone interview Tuesday, said the struggles of fire companies with recruitment and hopes new facility will help in that regard. He also said he was glad the fire company would be able to use some of the existing structure and remain in the downtown area.
“It’s good they are staying in the center of Aberdeen," Glassman said.