SUMMIT, NJ - In a rare Wednesday night meeting -- pushed back from its traditional Tuesday slot due to the Primary Election held the day prior -- the Summit Common Council received an update on the design for the proposed new Summit Fire Department Headquarters as part of a relatively brief, 70-minute June 5 meeting.

The update comes just less than one year after the first visuals were released to the public showing what estimated $11.8 million project would look like.

Summit Fire Department (SFD) Chief Eric Evers opened his presentation with photos of the earliest fire house, dating to the 1890s, and the current building, erected in 1901 and added to 1948 and 1976. In June 2014, the department did a needs assessment study, which revealed the need to relocate and rebuild. That was followed by a May 2017 feasibility study to determine facility and square footage requirements. After determining that property within the Broad Street West redevelopment area best suited the SPD’s needs, they entered into a contract this January with LeMay Erickson Willcox for design development and construction documentation. Some site preparation work has already been completed.

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A SFD team meets weekly with LeMay on design concepts. There is a focus on “value engineering” to ensure cost control. Other considerations include a room-by-room analysis for meeting standards today and in the future, as well as sustainable design features.

Evers described some features of the new 30,000-square-foot design, including a decontamination room, apparatus bay, and fire prevention education room. The mezzanine will incorporate training space, reducing the time the department will have to go offsite for training. One of the training features being considered is a “mini Summit streetscape.” The second and third floors will house the EOC (emergency operations center), administrative areas, exercise space, dorms – and the requisite fire pole.

One area where the SPD “isn’t skimping” is the decontamination room, which will allow the department to better protect its firefighters against occupational cancers. Battalion Chief Paul Imbimbo explained that when protective gear is used at a fire, it brings contaminants back to the firehouse, off-gassing for “a couple of days.” The decontamination area will allow firefighters to bag their gear, put it into an extractor to clean it, and shower right there. The gear storage area will have its own HVAC and ventilation system, which is not only safer but will better preserve the gear.

Architecturally, the department is taking cues from its own history and other buildings in Summit. The proposed design includes many windows, which will bring natural light into the buildings. The engine bays will have bifold doors rather than conventional roll-up doors.

Evers anticipates that bidding will happen in early 2020, followed by the permitting process. Construction could take place between March 2020 and August 2021, roughly. He also expects to have a more complete idea of the all-in construction cost by this July.

Ward 2 Council Member Greg Vartan noted the department is doing a “spectacular job” despite the limitations of its present building. He said it makes sense to do this project now, in conjunction with the Broad Street West redevelopment, and that since we build a new firehouse “roughly once every 100 years, it’s commendable that we’re taking the time to really do it right” in terms of sustainability and value engineering.

Ward Two Council Member Marjorie Fox inquired whether the building might be compatible with solar panels. Evers replied that the building can accept panels but they haven’t yet determined if there is enough square footage to make solar installation cost-effective.

Matt Gould, Ward 1 council member, asked about resiliency, given the increase in severe weather, and whether there will be battery backup. Deputy Chief Donald Nelson said there is a generator, but they have not yet explored batteries. Gould also asked if other Union County departments would train at the new facility. Evers said the building could accommodate such things as EOC web-based training and “dry” (no actual fire or water) hands-on training.

Evers also reported that the Summit Fire Department had assisted earlier that evening in fighting a fatal house fire in Millburn.

Two residents spoke in favor of the Park Line during the public comments section. Nicolas Giovambattista, Henry Street, moved to Summit with his family four years ago and “lives across the street” from the Park Line. Six months ago he joined the Park Line Foundation board. He described the dangers of walking from East Summit to the downtown area, noting it’s particularly dangerous for schoolchildren. The Park Line would alleviate that. “At the same time, you can bring the downtown all the way to Bryant Park.” Acknowledging that some neighbors do have concerns, he believes they can be addressed.

Keith Langworthy, Windsor Road, said he’s spoken to the mayor and council members privately in the past, but had never gone on public record with his support for the Park Line. “It ties in with green projects” in town, and connects East Summit to the downtown. He noted that Hidden Valley is unknown to many residents; this would “put it on the map and connect all the green spaces we have.” As the Park Line Foundation’s treasurer, he said the organization has money and hopes to be “allowed to spend all the money we’ve raised.”

Ordinances and Resolutions

Fox moved an ordinance to vacate a sewer easement that currently runs in the backyards of lots 5, 11, 12, 13, and 14 on Knob Hill Drive. Created in the 1950s for a proposed subdivision, the easement has never been used, and the City has no need for it. It was approved on a unanimous roll call vote.

Beth Little, Council Member at-Large, introduced five bond ordinances in support of the city Budget passed by Council earlier this year. The ordinances included:

  • appropriate $2.1 million and authorize the issuance of $1.999 million bonds for the purchase of Division of Public Works, Fire Department and Police equipment, road and storm water work, and various capital improvements to City Hall and other municipal buildings,

  • appropriate $1.57 million and authorize the issuance of $1.495 million bonds for the purchase of 7 Cedar Street,

  • appropriate $101,000 and authorize the issuance of $96,000 bonds for improvements to parking lots and infrastructure,

  • appropriate $426,000 and authorize the issuance of $405,000 bonds for improvements to the sewer infrastructure, and

  • appropriate $1.37 million, including a special assessment, and authorize the issuance of $1.304 million for road resurfacing on Butler Parkway, Caldwell Avenue, Clark Street, Dayton Road, Huntley Road, Willow Road, Eaton Court, Milton Avenue, Gary Road, and New Providence Avenue.

These were all approved in unanimous roll call votes and will be heard and voted on at the June 18 council meeting.

Ward 2 Council Member Stephen Bowman moved two Law & Labor resolutions. The first approved the renewal of the majority of liquor licenses in the city, for distribution, clubs, and on-premises consumption. He also moved a resolution extending paid sick leave for a Parking Services Agency employee.

Little’s sole Finance resolution authorized 2019 salaries effective July 1, representing employees receiving increases due to longevity or step increases.

Two Capital Projects & Community Services resolutions were moved by Fox. Summit High School student Gillian Heimple was named as a student member of the Recycling Advisory Committee. Seventeen older vehicles no longer needed by the City would be disposed of via the online auction site Municibid.com.

Gould had three Community Programs & Parking Services resolutions.

The first authorizes the painting of an abstract mural by New York artist Hellbent on the Springfield Avenue tier parking garage, jointly paid for by Parking Services Agency and the Summit Public Art Committee. Bowman questioned whether the mural would be “hidden” in that location. In response, Vivian Furman, co-chair of the art organization, explained it will be very visible to pedestrians, with bright colors that will capture people’s attention. Fox asked whether, if more funding were procured, the mural could wrap around the building to face the train tracks. Given logistical difficulties with the space, Furman said a portion of that wall could be painted with additional funding. Ward One Council Member Mike McTernan said, “that’s one of the neat things about art in places you don’t expect … it’s one of the joys of public art.” When Naidu asked if the City website listed the locations of Summit’s public art, Furman directed him to the Summit Public Art website, summitpublicart.com. Naidu committed to having the City site linked to that site.

Gould’s second resolution authorized the purchase of a 2019 Ford Fusion hybrid vehicle for the Parking Services Agency via the Morris County Cooperative Pricing Council for $26,277. Parking Services Manager Rita McNany estimated that over the life of the vehicle, fuel costs would be $3,000 lower than a gas vehicle’s. Fox pointed out that parking services, with all its starts, stops, and idling, is a perfect application for a hybrid, which uses battery power while idling.

Gould’s third resolution authorizes a change order of $107,088.94 for additional costs for the Community Center renovation, bringing the entire project to approximately $6.387 million. The change order represents 32 different items. A large portion was for the new basketball floor in the old gym. Insurance would only replace part of the water-damaged floor, and a decision was made to have it all replaced rather than ending up with a patchwork of old and new. He noted the overage is under 5% on a $6.3 million project, well below the usual 10% overage. McTernan applauded how every segment of the Summit community pulled together in a public-private partnership to bring the project, which was originally projected to cost $5.7 million, to fruition.

All resolutions were approved.