Bedford OKs fire station funds

The Bedford Borough council approved financing for a proposed new fire station for the county’s volunteer fire department Monday that would address structural concerns and the lack of space for fire station equipment and other municipal departments.

A six-bay fire station will replace the existing three-bay station that sits at the corner of West Penn Street and South West Street. The current station is next to the borough building, which houses a meeting room for the fire department.

Borough Manager Barbara Diehl said the weight of heavy fire apparatus has damaged the building, causing concern for the structural integrity of the 69-year-old building. While there were emergency repairs to the engine bay area in 2017, the repairs were a short-term so­lution, a news release stated.

The new fire station, which would span 12,000 square feet, would provide improved facilities for the volunteer firefighters and accommodate the size and weight of fire equipment.

“We give our full support to fire department because, of course, we cherish the work that they do and we want to back this project 100 percent,” Diehl said. “This is going to be a state-of-the-art fire station, which we support. The fire department’s new building project will still continue to serve the needs of Bedford County and that’s what’s most important to us.”

State Rep. Jesse Topper, R-Bedford, said, “It looks like a great project and one I’m very supportive of.”

“The fire department is extremely important to this area. I also know there have been some issues with that facility,” he added. “It needs upgraded and these are not expensive undertakings.”

Bedford Borough Mayor William Leibfried said the floor that held the fire trucks is crumbling and that the fire department has wanted a new station for years.

He said the fire station will free up the municipal building space for borough services within it to spread out on the street level, including the police department, increasing its visibility.

For the fire department, he said the station will offer enough bays for all of the agency’s equipment and will provide the volunteer firefighters with a lot more space.

The fire department is striving to break ground for the new station in April after demolition of the existing station and a neighboring house that the department owns.

The proposed building also includes plans for a gear room, meeting and administrative offices and a banquet room.

The estimated $3 million station would be financed through Hometown Bank, Somerset Trust and Altoona First over 25 years, according to Diehl.

To fund construction of the station, Diehl said the fire department qualifies for tax-exempt financing, and the loan for the project is not to exceed $2.4 million.

There is a half-million dollars in the department’s reserve fund and the borough and municipal authority will buy out the lease in the municipal building for $450,000.

The final design of the fire station is reportedly still in the works.

Mirror Staff Writer Shen Wu Tan is at 946-7457.