The building that served as the South Orange Rescue Squad Headquarters for the past 43 years has been demolished, and the squad needs your help to build a new headquarters on a lot next to the South Orange Firehouse on Sloan Street.
“It is a small space but we are planning to maximize every usable inch that we can,” said South Orange Rescue Squad Captain Dan Cohen.
Earlier this year, the old squad building came down to make way for the Third & Valley apartment building being constructed by Jonathan Rose LLC. The developer contributed more than $1 million towards the project but the squad needs to raise at least another $100,000 to $150,000, according to Cohen, now that all the plans are near completion and the full cost of rebuilding is known.
Larger donors can sponsor entire rooms, pieces of equipment or even ambulances.
Those interested in making smaller donations can sponsor bricks that will become part of the walkway to the building and tiles that will line the front entrance.
The bricks and tiles will be laser engraved with text and logos that the donor specifies and will become a permanent part of the building’s exterior.
“We are hoping to close on the lot this week, if all of the paperwork gets done in time. There are then a bunch of things that need to happen before the construction can begin — tree removal, PSE&G needs to move a telephone pole, etc — but we are really hoping to be able to start within a few weeks before winter sets in and the project gets delayed by weather.”
Meanwhile, the squad has moved to a temporary location on Fourth Street — a rented one-bedroom apartment and garage that the squad shares with a construction company. “It is not an ideal situation by any stretch of the imagination but our volunteers have been doing a great job of making it work until we can have an appropriate home again,” wrote Cohen in an email.
SORS is a live-in squad where volunteers sleep in seven nights a week, working 12- to 24-hour shifts. The squad now has three ambulances, reducing the town’s need to call on mutual aid and allowing the squad to respond to other towns. “We are the primary backup for the Maplewood Fire Department, and it is not uncommon for us to have one or two ambulances on calls in South Orange and an additional one in Maplewood,” said Cohen.
Cohen noted that the Village of South Orange is not contributing any money to this project — no taxpayer funds are being used in the construction. However, the town sold the new lot to the squad for $1. If the land ever ceases to be used as a rescue squad headquarters, the property reverts back to the Village.
The squad itself is building the new headquarters, according to Cohen, because the Village Board of Trustees “decided that it would be quicker, easier and cheaper for us to handle the project ourselves because we are not a municipal agency but rather a private 501c3 organization. We have much more flexibility in working and negotiating with builders, contractors and architects than municipal governments do and aren’t subjected to the same bidding requirements and red tape, etc. that can cause big delays in public projects.”
Meanwhile the squad is getting by in its temporary digs.
“We are making it work, but we are all very eager to get to the next phase and have our new building built. We share the temporary space with a construction company, which can be a bit of a challenge sometimes. There are definitely some limitations to the temporary quarters, but all of our members have been doing a great job of making it work and not letting it interfere with emergency response and our the service we provide to the community.”