Woodmont looks forward to new borough hall

Officials in Woodmont are counting the days until the old Kings Highway Firehouse has been transformed into the new borough hall.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held at the firehouse Saturday. City and state officials took shovels outside on the frigid winter day to dig into a pile of dirt out front for the ceremony.

Borough Warden Ed Bonessi said it will be several months before the old firehouse is ready to be the new borough hall. There will be a main assembly room, three bedrooms upstairs, plumbing for a kitchen, and other improvements.

The borough allocated $43,000 for preparation and design work, and there is $500,000 in a state STEAP grant, money the state allocates for community conservation and development.

When the building is ready, the existing borough hall on Clinton Street will be sold, and the proceeds will be used to build a three-bay garage behind the firehouse. Bonessi said the back will also be transformed into a more “grove-like” setting.

Three bay doors on the building now will be saved and incorporated into the new garage out back.

The groundbreaking was a big day for borough residents and officials, who have been working more than three years to see the old Fire Station No. 5 turned into the Woodmont Borough Hall.

The Board of Aldermen voted in recent years to give Woodmont the old fire station for $1. The city wasn’t using the station anymore because it was replaced with the new East Side Fire Station.

The building will be the borough hall, but during emergencies it also will be part of the city’s emergency response system. It will not be a full-fledged shelter but will house some emergency operations, such as storage and distribution of emergency meals, and serve as a central area from which people can be transported to other locations.

Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman joined the Saturday ceremony, praising the plans to turn the old firehouse into the new borough hall.

Mayor Ben Blake said he is looking forward to the station becoming a hub of the community and “the official borough hall for Woodmont.”

State Sen. Gayle Slossberg spoke as well, and attendees included city aldermen, Woodmont residents and officials, and former state Rep. Paul Davis, who was in office as those STEAP grants were being approved for the project.

Bonessi thanked the people who helped push the project through, especially former warden Dick Austin, who was also at the groundbreaking.

“Dick is the person who actually put the idea in my head,” Bonessi said.