A symbol of Westminster's proud past is finally planning to leave downtown after nearly a century -- and everyone's cheering.
As well they should.
The Westminster Volunteer Fire Company has voted to move its fire house to a new location on Railroad Avenue, about a half-mile from its East Main Street building that was erected in 1896.
The volunteer company will pay $1.9 million to acquire the RMS Co. hydraulic equipment shop and Gardiner's Furniture store across the avenue. It will then spend $1 million to remodel the buildings, converting the RMS facility to house the fire trucks and equipment, and the furniture store into a social hall.
The relocation out of downtown will relieve the traffic congestion and general pandemonium resulting from emergency calls to the station in the heart of the business district. It will also allow the firefighters to buy and house bigger equipment, such as the planned purchase of an aerial ladder truck that won't fit in the existing fire station.
"We aren't bad neighbors downtown, but there are times we aren't good neighbors, either," admitted Robert Cumberland, a member of the fire company. The historic objective of volunteer fire companies was to locate as close to the town center as possible. That aim has changed with growth and sprawl of the community and the modern traffic management needs of
The $3 million for the change will require an unprecedented fund-raising effort by the volunteers, traditionally used to bingo nights, chicken dinners and an annual donation drive to pay for new rolling stock and operations.
That's where the entire community, and the government, must become involved. The valuable contribution to public safety and health by the volunteers of the Westminster fire company is readily acknowledged. But they need serious financial help to make the move to a more advantageous relocation.
The volunteer members agreed nearly unanimously to re-locate, which could take two years to complete, and to sell the imposing three-story, brick and marble firehouse on Main Street to help pay the cost. The county library is interested in the acquisition. We urge broad financial support for this welcome change of venue.