NORTH SALEM, N.Y. - The Croton Falls Fire Department ended one chapter this past Saturday, Nov. 7, and started a new chapter when it closed its former headquarters on Front Street and officially opened its new building at 1 Sun Valley Drive.
“A fire department is not about its building,” said Pastor Timothy Wagner of the Croton Falls Community Church as the fire department members took down the American flag at the Front Street building. “It is about the people.”
Wagner then walked with fire department members down Route 22 to the opening ceremony of the new building. The North Salem High School marching band led the procession.
The Front Street building served the department for 86 years. Even after three expansions it was only 4,000 square feet. The trucks and the department started to outgrow the building.
“These days fire trucks are getting much bigger so we were specially designing trucks so they could fit in that building,” said Angelo D’Agostino, chairman of the Board of the Croton Falls Fire District. “Plus we had filled it up. If we bought another truck, we could not fit it into that building anymore.”
In an interview before the ceremony, Chief Jason Blauvelt explained that the department was restricted height wise and length wise because of the steel beams from the old building.
It took just under one year for the renovations of the new fire department to be completed, but the process to make it all possible began about three years ago, when the building on Route 22, which had been known as the Verizon building, went up for sale.
“It was right around the time that the department was thinking about its future, the future of the building we were in, where we really had no room,” D’Agostino said.
D’Agostino credits former firefighter Ken Lippmann with coming up with the plan to fund the purchase and construction. A building committee was put together. It was comprised of fire commissioners Drew Outhouse, Bobby Daros, Michael Mongiello and Mark Martin, Fire Department President Jeff Daday, Chief Jason Blauvelt, First Assistant Chief Dan Dreyer and Second Assistant Chief Patricia Gallagher.
“About a year and a half ago we pitched our plans to the people of North Salem and they voted to approve a [$4.5 million] bond that allowed us to purchase the property and proceed with the construction,” D’Agostino said.
The fire district covers 5,645 residents and about 25 businesses throughout North Salem and in the southern portions of Carmel and Southeast.
On Nov. 15, 2014, they did the groundbreaking. The opening ceremony was held 51 weeks to the day of the groundbreaking ceremony.
“Our team went to work and did a phenomenal job bringing those plans to life,” D’Agostino said at the opening ceremony. “They not only got the job done on time, but on budget. It is not often that you have a municipal job done both on time and on budget.”
The new building is about 10,000 square feet.
“I am speaking for the entire team when I say that we are extremely proud of the work we have done here and this building will serve the CFFD easily for the next three or four generations,” D’Agostino said.
Wagner described the new building as “a blessing for a people that make this community safe, wonderful and a joy to live in.”
Assemblyman David Buchwald agreed with Wagner.
“It is my privilege to share with so many members of the community pride in the work that the Croton Falls Volunteer Fire Department does day in and day out to keep this community safe and keep the residents of not just this hamlet, but so many residents in Westchester safe and to have a building like this that will enable you to do that is a very special thing,” Buchwald said.
Commissioner Drew Outhouse, who lives across the street from the firehouse, said he is happy to welcome his new neighbors.
“I live right there (pointing to the west of the firehouse),” said Outhouse. “I am very fortunate because my son and his family live to the west of me and I love them; to the north of me lives my brother and his family and I love them; and now I have the firehouse to the east of me and I love them.”
He added, “Harry Truman said, ‘It is amazing what can happen when no one cares who gets the credit,’ and I think that is surely what happened here.”
Chief Jason Blauvelt cut the ribbon to officially open up the building.
The new building is large enough to accommodate the department’s needs, purchase the equipment needed and do more in-house training.
The old fire department, which is currently owned by the department, will be sold.
“A lot of people are excited about it. It’s a big day in department history,” Blauvelt said.