Milford's East Side firehouse still has heating problems more than a decade after construction

MILFORD — The local firefighters union is putting the city's feet to the fire, calling for a heating upgrade at the East Side Fire Station.

Ryan LaGuardia, president of the Milford Professional Firefighters, IAFF Local 944, union said the firehouse has had problems with maintaining heat since it was built in 2011. And with temperatures feeling well below zero with the wind chill earlier this month, it just further exemplified the need to deal with the problem.

East Side Fire Station was officially opened in 2013 after numerous delays and missed opening dates.

LaGuardia stated the heat pump system used for heating is only adequate to heat the building 30 degrees above the outside ambient temperature. "Typically, it is not put in a system where winter temperatures, on average, go below 40 degrees because it just can't keep up," he said. "A restructure of the HVAC system is what would be needed."

"Heat pump systems bring in outside air and just heat it a little," said Fire Chief Doug Edo. "They work down south. They don't work in the northeast. There is no air to heat when the air outside is at zero or below zero. It's bringing in the coldest possible air, and the system cannot produce heat."

Edo said contractors are meeting with the fire department to give them bids to redo the entire heating system. "We are working on it," he said.

LaGuardia said the city has put "multiple Band-Aids" on the problem in the past.

"Electric heating tiles have been put in the sleeping area, auxiliary heat in the duct themselves to try to boost the heat, and all haven't worked," said LaGuardia. "We've gone to the city multiple times a year with multiple repair cards, and it's been a bad thing to fix because the mayor doesn't want to spend the money."

Mayor Ben Blake declined to comment.

"We reached out to the city, and the public works installed electric heat panels in the ceiling, which seemed to work," Edo said. "But the rooms are cold when you get temperatures down to zero or less."

Edo said he hasn't asked the mayor for the funds to fix the heating problem, but did reach out to the city attorney's office "hoping they could withhold some of the money owed to the contractor so we can purchase or at least update a real heat system."

City Attorney Jonathan Berchem said the city and the contractor for the East Side Fire Station had mediated their outstanding differences and came to a resolution of the matter. "There was no mechanism to withhold money owed to the contractor for the purpose of making future repairs or updates to the heating system," he said.

During the winter months, firehouse personnel will open the doors to try to use the ambient air for additional heat, stated LaGuardia.

"The apparatus where the trucks go to prevent the tanks from freezing is radiant floor heating, which is electric," he said. "That has been cranked up to 80 degrees on the cooler days, and some of the radiant heat from the apparatus floors will go to the living areas, kitchen room, offices, training and bedrooms. They open the doors and try to use the ambient air to try and supplement the heat for everywhere else."

The cold temperatures have not affected the response times of East Side firefighters, according to LaGuardia, but since crews go out to the cold and come back into the cold, their rehab has not been the best.

"Firemen do what we can, and we have been turning the heat up," said LaGuardia. "We have to be 100 percent at all times to respond to calls for the safety of our individuals and the safety of the citizens we serve."

The cost of electricity for the firehouse was $24,000 last year, stated LaGuardia, and $6,900 on oil and other heat sources.

"Headquarters leads the league in that, but they are also at a higher occupancy and is an older building," he said. "This is a new building that's supposed to be green, and the bill is going up because we are supplementing the heat with electric."

LaGuardia said space heaters are being used, which is overtaxing the system.

"It's a green building, and we are spending $24,000 on electric," he stated. "The disconnect there is somewhere. It's frustrating at best. We don't feel like we are adequately supported."