SOMERVILLE – The borough's emergency responders have begun the planning process for the long-awaited emergency services complex on Gaston Avenue.
In late February and early March, representatives of the organizations attended a pair of two-day workshops to give input on what they wanted to see in the new building that will be built on the former site of the Gaston Avenue Bakery and adjacent lots.
Somerville has signed a memorandum of understanding with FD Stonewater of Arlington, Virginia to develop the facility and then lease it back to the borough.
Somerville’s police department, fire department, rescue squad and Office of Emergency Management could leave their present buildings which are scattered around the borough and move into the shared facility. Somerset County could also be a potential partner in the project by moving 911 operations into the facility.
“Collaboration is at the heart of the design process. Spending time with stakeholders, asking the right questions, fostering intelligent discussion and listening closely are all keys to ensuring that we capture the appropriate vision and to convert that into something tangible,” said Claiborne Williams, a partner at FD Stonewater.
During the design workshops, the participants toured each of the existing facilities to gain an understanding of current operations. The participants agreed that the main goals in building a new emergency services complex are faster response times and greater efficiency.
“The complex will provide a more effective and efficient operation for today, while preparing for the future of the borough's fire department,” said Fire Chief Brian Iselin.
The construction of the complex would allow the borough to move all its fire departments into one building and sell the current police headquarters, which once was a brewery, for a South Bridge Street redevelopment.
“The building we are currently occupying is inadequate for police operations," said Police Chief Dennis Manning. "This new facility will increase the efficiency and operational capabilities of the police department well into the future.”
The cost of the project and the borough's financial arrangement with FD Stonewater have not been finalized.
FD Stonewater has developed facilities for federal, state and municipal governments throughout the United States. This is the firm's first project in New Jersey.
Regular updates on the project will be posted on the Borough’s website at www.somervillenj.org.