NEW PALESTINE — The fresh smell of beef cooking on the large gas stove filled the air in the new, wide-open kitchen.
It’s going to take a lot of hot meals over the next several months to overcome the new construction smell in the recently opened $3.7 million Sugar Creek Township Fire Department Station 42.
Not that its staff is complaining.
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Brandon Schowengerdt, firefighter/EMT, was preparing lunch at the station recently while fellow firefighters unpacked boxes and settled into the facility that opened early this month on two acres at 401 S. County Road 500W, just south of U.S. 40.
“It’s exciting to finally be in here,” Schowengerdt said. “It’s got all the necessary things we need plus a little more.”
The new building can house up to eight career firefighters at a time — double the capacity of the old station, which was designed for volunteers who didn’t have to stay overnight, said Capt. James Wolsiffer, the new building project leader.
The former Station 42, 3337 U.S. 40 West, was too small for modern firefighting equipment and didn’t provide firefighters proper sleep and work space, Fire Chief John Begovich said.
The new facility has a workout room and private sleeping quarters for each firefighter complete with a desk, locker and shared bathroom between each sleeping area.
“This station is put together very well and will serve this community easily for the next 30 years,” Begovich said.
The new station has 14-foot garage bay doors, as opposed to the 10-foot doors in the old station and is much larger — an estimated some 11,200 square feet compared with 7,000 square feet.
The new location also is more centrally located, allowing firefighters better access to all corners of the township it serves, Wolsiffer said.
John Heald, firefighter/paramedic, has worked for several fire departments through his 24-year firefighting career and was pleased with the way the new station turned out.
“A lot of departments build for right now, and within a few years, they’ve outgrown the space,” Heald said. “That’s not the case here.”
He’s been through several station builds and feels the new station is large enough, yet not too elaborate.
In addition to the kitchen, with a neatly tucked away refrigerator and pantry area, the living room area has a large cooking and dining space directly next to a large lounge where everyone is encouraged to gather.
There is also a quiet room for firefighters to get away should they need some private space.
“We’re also set up for the future,” Wolsiffer said.
If they need more bunk space, beyond eight people or another office, there is room to create those areas should they expand beyond the five person shifts they currently staff 24/7.
The building also was constructed with the latest geothermal heating and air conditioning units as well as cost-saving LED lighting, officials said.
The design team brought over as much of the old furniture and equipment from the former Station 42 as possible and was extra careful not to forget the original fire station bell that was in Station 42 when it was first built as a volunteer hub decades ago.
The township paid cash for the land and new construction. leaving no bonds or loans to pay off. Current plans call for township officials to sell old Station 42 once they remove all remaining property and secure an assessment for the land and building.