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Elizabethtown Considers Joint Police-Fire Headquarters

The Elizabethtown Borough Council discussed the possibility of renovating the fire station to serve as a combined headquarters for both the all-volunteer Elizabethtown Fire Department and the borough police.

If a feasibility study is ordered, the cost would be split evenly between the borough and the fire company, which is an independent nonprofit.

Councilors ultimately voted to reject both bids received for architectural services and seek new bids after only one firm followed bid instructions. The borough will put out a new request for proposals, with the new proposals to be submitted by Nov. 15. The Borough Council could give conditional approval to a bid at its Nov. 15 meeting, but it must be ratified by the fire company. If both the borough and the fire company approve it, a bid will be awarded Dec. 4 and the architects are to come up with cost estimates within 12 weeks.

The earlier request for proposals had a four-week timeline; only two firms submitted proposals and only one of those met the four-week timeline. The vote on Thursday, Oct. 18, was unanimous except for the abstention of Council President Marc Hershey, who had a conflict of interest because he is also the fire department’s treasurer.

There are several advantages of shared space. Hershey said the cost of modifying the existing building that serves as both police headquarters and the borough’s administrative offices led the borough to consider shared headquarters for police and fire. Having one building for both police and fire would allow for some things to be used by both agencies, such as fitness equipment, locker rooms and meeting rooms. Police Chief Ed Cunningham said if police officers and firefighters trained together more often, it could improve how they work together at emergency scenes.

There are also several concerns about a combined fire-police headquarters. Councilor Tom Shaud said he was concerned that there could be animosity between the volunteer firefighters and the paid police officers. Cunningham said there could be problems with noisy arrestees disturbing the sleep of live-in firefighters, but that could be minimized by separating those areas as much as possible. Cunningham said it would also be important to make sure police cars and fire trucks are exiting in directions that will keep them from interfering with each other.

Hershey noted that West Hempfield Township has one building for municipal administration, police and fire headquarters and its experience could be useful for guiding Elizabethtown. Cunningham said he had no experience with a shared fire and police station, but that he could ask other police chiefs about their experience with shared space to find out.

In other business, councilors voted unanimously to rescind temporary parking restrictions on East Willow Street between Market Street and Cherry Alley that had been in place because of work on the Market Street Bridge, which is now complete. Cunningham said police would enforce state law banning parking within 30 feet of an intersection and a borough ordinance banning parking within 10 feet of a driveway, which had not been enforced strictly in the past, and work with a homeowner on the block who had been unable to park in front of his house due to the restriction.

As for the other side of Market Street, Cunningham said he saw no reason to justify one-way traffic on the first block of West Willow Street after spending several 45-minute shifts observing traffic there and leaving a traffic counter in place for 10 days straight. Cunningham said he would continue to monitor traffic there.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article erroneously reported that construction costs would be split evenly between the borough and the fire company if the project is undertaken. It should have said that the costs of a feasibility study will be split evenly between the borough and the fire company if it is ordered.

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