At Wednesday’s long anticipated ribbon cutting for the new central fire station, residents made two observations.
First, the new fire station looks just like the one it replaced: a 1935 Art Deco structure dotted with its period light fixtures and both limestone and granite accents.
Al Monelli, Greenwich’s Superintendent of Building Construction and Maintenance, said that since the building has been completed, the best compliment he has received is that when people travel up Mason Street, they say feels like the old building is still in place.
Chief Siecienski said that the media in particular, noted that the ribbon for the ribbon-cutting ceremony was missing. In fact, Siecienski said, the swath of yellow plastic fire line tape draped between two stanchions was “the ribbon” and it was intentional. He said that yellow fire scene tape is considered a barrier, and that it was symbolic to cut that barrier and welcome everyone.
“This is your building,” Siecienski said. “It belongs to the community.”
It was noted that as fire fighters work around the clock, they would spend time in the facility working, eating, sleeping, studying, training, and even relax and watching TV.
Mr. Monelli said the ribbon cutting brought to a close almost 11 years of constant construction activity on the public safety complex.
Mr. Monelli said there was much more to the project than construction because all personnel had to be relocated for several years.
Going back to 2005, he said there was a search for lease space for fire administration, followed by a move to Holly Hill in 2006.
Also, space was converted in Byram Fire Station to relocate volunteer companies from the old police/fire building in 2006.
In 2012, there was construction of the temporary Horseneck Fire Station in modulars.
Space was converted in the Cos Cob Fire Station to house the ladder truck in 2012.
Monelli recounted the countless meetings and presentations, including questions of budgeting and a careful weighing rehabilitation vs new construction.
There were additional meetings and presentations regarding historical preservation.
Demolition of the old fire station took place in 2013, and finally the real work of construction began in 2014.
Monelli said the project was especially difficult to execute due to the limited land available, operational concerns of the fire department, office space requirements, and the respect for and determination to preserve the history of the 1935 Art Deco Fire and Police building.
Mr. Monelli thanked DPW commissioner Amy Siebert, First Selectman Peter Tesei and Fire Chief Siecienski for their vision.
“They promptly addressed every issue encountered during the project to keep it moving forward,” Monelli said. “Their commitment ensured that the town was getting the very best fire protection facility possible and they never lost sight of that goal.”
Monelli also thanked dozens of people whose contributions made the project a success, including members of the Greenwich Fire Department for consistently cooperating with all requests from DPW, including rearranging the space, working in cramped quarters, and continuous construction activity. “Your patience paid off. You finally have a new home,” he said.
Monelli said he was particularly grateful to sewer, Engineering and Highway divisions for their expertise and cooperation. Also, he was grateful to the Building Inspection Division and the Fire Marshals office whose foresight and experience helped resolve construction and construction issues before they became costly problems.
Chief Siecienski credited First Selectman Peter for never having lost focus on “back burner projects.”
“He was tenacious in making sure that projects moved forward,” Siecienski said. “Peter Tesei did not waiver. He persevered. We have a beautiful building to show for it.”
“Our perseverance has brought us here today,” Tesei said, with a nod to former First Selectmen Dick Bergstresser, John Margenot and Roger Pearson who were all in attendance.
Indeed perseverance was the word for the day. Perserverance, and as Cheif Siecienski said, a dream and a prayer.