PFARS plans headquarters relocation

The Princeton First Aid and Rescue Squad has plans to relocate from their longtime headquarters on Harrison Street to the former Princeton Township Public Works building.

Municipal administrator Bob Bruschi gave a presentation to the Princeton Council on March 24 about the relocation plan.

“Over the past several years, both before consolidation and after, we’ve been having conversations with PFARS and trying to work with them to find an adequate place to build a new facility,” Bruschi said. “The current facility is antiquated at best. The bays are undersized, and they are insufficient to meet equipment needs.”

The current building was built in 1963, and Bruschi pointed out the difference in equipment and technology.

“When this facility was constructed, ambulances were more like glorified station wagons,” Bruschi said. “The building just doesn’t facilitate today’s equipment in any way. Working areas are really lacking. There’s one small room of shared office space being shared between 12 officers. I think the squad has done an amazing job of making this building function for as long as they have.”

Bruschi said the administration has worked with PFARS to examine several options. Last year the squad purchased two homes on adjoining lots to the current building.

“We did look at building on that site,” Bruschi said. “We also looked at building on the Valley Road School site, and we looked around for other properties, but there was nothing available or affordable. The best option is the existing public works facility at the corner of Valley Road and Route 206.”

Bruschi enumerated the benefits to constructing a PFARS facility on that location.

“The location is about as good as you can get in the town,” Bruschi said. “It’s centrally located, and it would put all our emergency facilities within close proximity of each other, which is really good. We don’t have any current use for the facility. We’ve taken out all of our equipment. Building here also puts this project under local control. Other sites are fraught with all kinds of issues. This plan allows us to move forward with the project.”

The project, while Bruschi estimates will cost between $5 million and $6 million, including soft costs, would be funded through a combination of fundraising by PFARS, a land-swap agreement, and a long-term loan from the municipality to the squad.

“PFARS will provide to the town their three existing properties,” Bruschi said. “We don’t know what we might build there, but it’s very difficult for a municipality to purchase property for a public purpose. That means there is a lot of value to us accepting that property from them. We’d provide them a long-term land lease on the new site. We would not give up ownership of that land. That allows PFARS to begin fundraising so they can offset the debt that ultimately they’re going to be responsible for paying to the town.”

PFARS leader Mark Freda said the land PFARS currently owns has been recently appraised.

“When we had the squad building appraised nine years ago the value was about $700,000,” Freda said. “The three properties the squad now owns were just appraised, and we’ll have that report within two weeks. I anticipate, without having seen the reports, that the value for the three properties will be somewhere in the area of $1.5 million. That means the amount of money we’re not able to pay the town immediately will be reduced drastically.”

Freda also said he is confident the squad will be able to raise a large amount of money to pay the remaining balance on their loan once the building is constructed.

“We have had a fundraising feasibility study already done,” Freda said. “The study estimates that within the community, for this endeavor, we could probably raise in the neighborhood of $3.5 million. The squad’s intent is to pay this off as quickly as possible. If we didn’t really believe we could do that, we wouldn’t be here.”

Bruschi said the next step is for PFARS and the governing body to enter in to a Memorandum of Understanding, guaranteeing agreement that the new headquarters can be built on the new site.

“Hopefully council will approve the MOU, and PFARS can begin to do some of their preliminary work on the site,” Bruschi said. He anticipated the MOU would be before council at the April 7 meeting.