Church Members Explain Reasons For Planned Land Sale To Hook & Ladder

Representatives of Trinity Episcopal Church, which plans to sell land to the Newtown Hook & Ladder volunteer firefighting organization for construction of a new firehouse, have explained church members’ thinking in terms of their recent decision to sell the land.

Hook & Ladder currently is housed in an antiquated town-owned firehouse at 45 Main Street. Since the 1980s, the fire company has sought to build a new firehouse at many locations within its fire district, but for one reason or another, those many proposals have fallen through.

Several months ago, the fire company approached the church about a land purchase for firehouse construction. The church owns eight acres at 36 Main Street, of which the fire company would buy three acres which have vehicle access from the south side of Church Hill Road.

In a statement issued last week, Rick Haylon and Bart Geissinger, the wardens for Trinity Episcopal Church, explained church members’ views in deciding to sell land to the fire company for a new firehouse.

It reads: “Trinity’s congregation agreed after much consideration that the sale of the lot at this time was the right thing to do for the town, the fire department, and its Newtown neighbors.”

It adds: “The proceeds from the sale will be put in a restricted trust fund to support the substantial, ongoing capital needs of (the congregation’s) properties, including the historic 133-year-old church building and 100-year-old rectory.”

“The nearly unanimous vote echoed the church leadership’s position that Trinity has a longstanding commitment to support the needs of the community while also caring for future generations,” Mssrs Haylon and Geissinger explained in the statement.

Through the firehouse construction project, Hook & Ladder would own its firehouse instead of being housed in a town-owned building. The town’s four other volunteer fire companies — Dodgingtown, Hawleyville, Sandy Hook, and Botsford — own their firehouses.

The exisiting Hook & Ladder firehouse long ago was deemed structurally unsound and ill-suited for sheltering the heavy, modern rolling stock that firefighting units now use. As a stopgap, the town then installed structural steel beams within the firehouse to shore up the garage floor of the main level to allow it to support heavy parked fire trucks. Also, the building’s western exterior wall was braced to counteract large cracks in it.

It is expected that a transaction will soon occur through which Trinity would sell three acres to Hook & Ladder for $500,000 for firehouse construction.

Such a construction project would be subject to review by the Borough Zoning Commission, as well as possible review by the Inland Wetlands Commission.

So that Hook & Ladder could effectively initiate the transition from housing its equipment in municipal quarters to housing it in quarters which the fire company owns, the town would provide an overall $1.5 million toward the cost of the firehouse project, disbursed across three successive fiscal years in $500,000 increments.

The overall price for the project, including land, site development, and firehouse construction, is not yet clear.

In 2010, the fire company unsuccessfully sought to build an 11,400-square-foot firehouse on the north side of Sugar Street, west of its intersection with Elm Drive.

More recently, it unsuccessfully sought to build a firehouse on the east side South Main Street, near Borough Lane.

Because the fire company is pursuing acquiring the Trinity property for a firehouse site, its has dropped a previous proposal seeking land for a firehouse in the Johnnie Cake Lane area, off Mt Pleasant Road.

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