by Lisa Tome
This year both the company elections and the annual awards banquet for the North East Fire Company are being held off site.
That's because the fire company is in the midst of a $1.5 million station renovation project which will take them into the future.
And, hopefully, help them increase their revenue.
"Everything is upside down," said Odie Isaacs, president of the North East Fire Company.
The work at the station on Maudlin Avenue is currently underway. It kicked off just after the new year. The scope of work includes total renovation of the hall. There will be a new stage, vestibule, and bar. The area will also be made handicapped accessible. In the kitchen, the heating and air conditioning systems will be upgraded. The kitchen will get new lights, ceiling tiles, and other cosmetic changes.
Isaacs explained that the changes are big. The station was originally built in 1954. The last renovation was in 1979. One of the big changes occurred in 2013 when the company stopped hosting the fundraising weekly Bingo games. "At this point, we're looking at caterers. We don't have a full scope of that yet. But we are trying to attract business with the new stage, lighting, and hall renovations," said Isaacs.
He said the company is working to have a modern facility and attract events such as dances, crab/oyster feasts, and other events. "The whole thing hinges on the dollar. You can do these things (to improve) but the cost of stuff changes so rapidly," said Isaacs.
The work to draw in a catering company won't be the only changes. There will be new office space for fire company officers. New restrooms will be built. A new area will be installed for the career emergency services staff that work for the company. Outside, there will be a new entrance and electronic sign. From the public safety perspective, the firehouse will also be a lot safer. A new large generator will now operate the entire station. That way it can be used as a shelter in case of a flood or other emergency. The hall will reopen and the the renovations are expected to be completed by July or August. The contractor is Nowland Associates.
Isaacs said the project has drawn both a great deal of support and interest from the public. He said that people have been disappointed when they have called to book an event at the hall and have been turned away due to the construction. He said the fire company has had to do their own rescheduling and is using the North East VFW for both the company election and the annual banquet.