Fire House only is Smoke and Mirrors. (Guest blog by Harry Bellangy)
To build or not to build the Cape May Public Safety Building that is the question. It is far more complicated. It is a case of building what is needed for the city’s residents and visitors.
The Public Safety Building as researched, discussed, designed, and accepted by the Public Safety Building Advisory committee charged with the project or build a single firehouse presented to the public by Councilman Mullock.
There is no known plan for a firehouse only building. We have seen pictures of firehouses that do not relate to Cape May. We do have pictures from magazines presented at the Town Hall meeting on March 11 by the Councilman Mullock.
There are no renderings, design, interior space design, etc. I could go on about the lack of design but that is not the point. There is no buy-in from the public safety professionals for a firehouse only plan.
There is however a very detailed plan for the Public Safety Building presented by the Public Safety Building Committee. It is important to note that the professionals involved with Cape May public safety project have endorsed the Public Safety Building resulting from the committee’s work.
These safety professionals do not support the firehouse only solution because it does not address the police department situation in two locations. There are some vague generalities about a future police station but no analysis, plan, or detail. If the vague plan for a police station at Broad and Elmira Street is not possible, I do not see a fallback location. What happens then? If the police department is not certified and no location is available for a new one what does the city do?
The Public Safety Building is inclusive of a police station that will meet the required standards, ADA accessible and is in a convenient location for the public. What would a two-story building at Broad and Elmira look like? What is the impact to the property values should a police station be located and Broad and Elmira?
Cape May City’s Police Chief and Fire Chief along with Cape May City PBA Representative endorse Ordinance 392 for One Public Safety Building. These professionals deal with public safety on a daily basis and know what their needs are.
Some crucial points relating to public safety:
• One building ensures a unified command location during any kind of a large-scale issue such as a hurricane, northeast storm, health emergency, or for the management of citywide events. This is not an all-inclusive list
• Most, if not all routine calls, require the presence of police, fire, EMS, and other public safety personnel. Response time is improved to the emergency site when dispatch is from one location
• The building will be ADA compliant and allow for privacy relating to police matters.
• The delivery of public safety function is interactive when combined into one building. • Maintenance costs for one building are reduced.
• The interior space is of a dynamic nature to allow reconfiguration to meet emergency needs.
• The Fire House Museum, housing the fragile artifacts and history of the Cape May Fire Department is included in the Public Safety Building. Major contention surrounds the Fire House Museum.
This is a Victorian-style structure housing the important historic artifacts relating to firefighting history in Cape May. The current building is not suitable for curating irreplaceable artifacts.
There is no security, fire suppression, fire detection, or climate control in the building. It is open to the atmosphere. This is not an environment to curate and protects the restored LaFrance pumper and other valuable artifacts.
The Public Safety Building includes a well thought out museum space that has everything necessary to protect the history of the Cape May Fire Department. The entrance remains at the corner of Washington and Franklin with double doors open to the public for viewing the 1928 La France.
There is a parking issue. The city hall parking is a municipal parking lot for the use of the city. There are ways to manage parking at City Hall and other city locations. Past administrations should have explored parking years ago. The current administration appointed a Parking Advisory Committee. We already have significant community participation in the several committees that have worked extremely hard over the last few years to make Cape May a better place. The committee members have brought new and fresh ideas to city government. All unpaid and volunteer. Cape May has moved forward over the last four years by reaching to the community for input with the Advisory Committees. This a momentum that we should not impede.
Unfortunately, COVID is impacting the important work of the committees.
Councilman Mullock is calling for a 5 to 10-year plan for the future of Cape May. This may surprise you but that plan exists. It is called the Master Plan, the result of 18 months of study, research, and analysis on the part of the Master Plan Advisory Committee, the Planning Board, and the planning professionals. The public was a participant in this planning process.
The Master Plan is reviewed and updated every 10 years. The direction now is to review the Master Plan and prioritize the recommendations contained in the plan–not create a new plan.
Having said this, the Public Safety Building is the best solution inclusive of the public safety needs for the City of Cape May. Anything else is just smoke and mirrors.
Guest Blog by Harry Bellangy