SOUTH ORANGE, NJ – The new South Orange Rescue Squad building will be constructed on Sloan Street next to the firehouse, the Board of Trustees decided unanimously at its meeting Monday night.
However, the board will wait until preliminary plans are drawn up to determine whether the building will include space in the second story for a meeting room that could double as a 40-bed emergency shelter. Trustees have asked for conceptual designs with and without the added space, which will take between six and eight weeks to prepare, according to village Administrator Barry Lewis Jr.
The Rescue Squad building will be constructed by Jonathan Rose Cos., the developer of the property at Third and Valley streets. Because that apartment and retail complex will displace the Rescue Squad, the development agreement calls for the company to fund and construct a new building, at a maximum cost of $1.1 million.
The board had originally planned to erect the Rescue Squad headquarters on village-owned property on Second Street, but agreed to reconsider the decision at the request of the Development Committee. “We did take a step back,” Lewis said. “Ultimately what we concluded was that we could fit the minimum needs of the squad (at either site).”
Three residents spoke in support of the Sloan Street location during the public comment portion of the meeting.
“Sloan Street is a small street block which would appear to be more suitable,” Steve Kissinger said.
Development Committee member Lee Pollock said the Second Street location was not a wise use of village property. “It will inhibit the ability to put a (request) out for a developer to come in and develop the parking lot parcel between First and Second streets,” Pollock said. “The Rescue Squad would be right smack dab in the middle.”
Scott Greenstone agreed, and also raised questions about the scope of the project. “My questions are along the lines of the 40-bed shelter,” he said. “Where’s the analysis that says we need it?”
Lewis noted that the plans for the second floor of the building do not call for a “dedicated shelter space.” It would be used primarily as a meeting space and room for the squad, he said. “That’s not part of the vote tonight,” he added.
Rescue Squad Second Lt. Dan Cohen said that the squad, a volunteer organization that has been in operation for 60 years, became a live-in squad 10 years ago. “This cuts five minutes from our average response time,” he said. He said the biggest concern with the Sloan Street location is parking. “We need room for our members to park,” he said.
Board members discussed some parking options, including converting the pick-up zone on Sloan Street into dedicated parking for the squad.
Village President Alex Torpey called the decision to build on Sloan Street “an exciting step forward.” He noted that since construction at Third and Valley cannot begin until the Rescue Squad is relocated, the developers “have an incentive to get that project done.”