New Upper Jay firehall could be operational by June

UPPER JAY – Firefighters here will soon have a new place to hang their hats. The firehouse being built here is set to be finished ahead of schedule.

Randy Brooks, superintendent at Murnane Construction Services of Plattsburgh, said the new Upper Jay fire station on Valley Road has only a few weeks left before it’s finished. The project has been in the works for close to six months. It is expected to be operational by June.

“At the most we will pretty well be completed at the end of the first week of May,” Brooks said.

Construction workers were busy with some of the finishing touches on Tuesday as they poured concrete for sidewalks that go around the side and back of the building. Other things on the to-do list include installing toilets and sinks into the two bathrooms and placing sleeves around the bollards, which are poles near the three fire bay doors, safeguarding fire trucks from backing into the structure.

The new building is actually smaller than the previous firehouse, although it is taller. It has one less bay door, but they extend deeper into the building. The new firehouse has a meeting room, laundry room, stand-by room, radio room, an office for Chief Jeffrey Straight, a shower and a kitchen. The Upper Jay Volunteer Fire Department has 35 members and two fire trucks.

The former firehouse on state Route 9N sits near the AuSable River in a flood zone. It was flooded by about two feet of water during Tropical Storm Irene on Aug. 28, 2011. It now has tattered siding and a boarded-up window. Black spray-paint lines are still visible, marking the water level of the flooding. The town’s fire trucks currently sit in the highway department building for that reason.

Robbie Lincoln, Upper Jay’s assistant fire chief, was at the new firehouse Tuesday checking up on it.

“It’s been flooded several times,” Lincoln said of the old one. “We were very fortunate to get the equipment (out) before we lost a fire truck.”

That isn’t expected to happen again because the new location is on higher ground, he added.

The project began on Oct. 7. Its cost was set at $2.7 million, which included buying the property. The funding was raised in two parts. The town’s insurance, along with other sources raised $1.2 million. Essex County received a grant from the state for a total of $1.5 million, paying for the rest of the project. Gov. Andrew Cuomo personally delivered a jumbo-sized check to town of Jay Supervisor Randy Douglas and other officials on Sept. 4, 2013.

Douglas said he plans to invite Cuomo to the grand opening in June.

“It looks great,” Douglas said. “Thank God for the governor’s office, the other state agencies; they came through for us.”

The construction site is run by Hueber Breuer Construction, the same company that built the Keene firehouse last year. When Irene swelled Gulf Brook in Keene, it ripped away half of the firehouse there.

Lincoln said the Upper Jay firehouse’s kitchen could come in handy for community events or could be used when providing shelter in an emergency scenario.

“During one of our disasters, we were cooking for upwards of 15 families,” Lincoln said.

The building meets a higher safety code than a typical commercial or residential building. A backup generator will soon be installed behind the firehouse.

Another aspect of the building Lincoln was excited about putting to use was its training space. There is a bail-out window, mimicking an emergency jump from a window, and also an area where the firefighters can practice confined-space training.

Lincoln said he has been hearing from people in the community about how nice the firehouse looks.

“It’s phenomenal,” Lincoln said. “We are extremely fortunate to have the building we have now. We are extremely happy with the construction and the quality of the building.”