Proposal would expand public safety space in Fenwick

Fenwick Island Town Council members heard a presentation of a “concept plan” for a proposed public safety building on Friday, Feb. 27, at their monthly council meeting. Last summer, the town approached the Bethany Beach Volunteer Fire Company, which has a 99-year lease for their Station 2 on Bayard Avenue, and asked if they were interested in allowing the town to use the unused parcel of land adjacent to the station for their public safety department.

“We have been working on this for the last six years,” said Mayor Audrey Serio of the town’s attempt to find more room for its public safety departments and administration. “We have run the gamut, and this is something that looks like it could work.”

The plan would incorporate a 4,000-square-foot addition to Station 2, for use by the towns’ police department, the fire company and the town’s lifeguards. There would be about 2,000 square feet on each level. The lower level would be almost exclusively used for the police department, with some shared lockers for both police and lifeguards. The upper level would have live-in rooms for firefighters, as well as meeting and storage space.

“The fire company met and discussed it, and we thought it would be useful for the police and fire company to coordinate. There are lots of pluses to have different public safety elements in one place,” said Bob Minutoli, public information officer for the Bethany Beach Volunteer Fire Company.

Minutoli presented the plan to the council on Friday as a “concerned citizen,” not as a representative of the fire company. He said he and Charlie Zonko of Zonko Builders worked on the plan just on an “unofficial, pro-bono” basis, aiming to save the town architectural and design fees.

“It’s the town’s building,” said Minutoli. “They would own it, and we would have space in it,” he said of the fire company.

Two big expenses of joining the older building and a new addition would be the need for a new emergency generator and a sprinkler system.

“Because it’s connected to the old building,” said Minutoli, “we have to put a system in the old building as well. We tried to get an exception from the fire marshal, but that didn’t work. ‘You’re the fire company, and you are trying to get an exception for a sprinkler system?’” he quoted the incredulous fire marshal, to a round of laughter from those at last Friday’s meeting.

He said that, because of the economy and the environment of many contractors needing work, it would be a good time to build.

“You’d be buying into a good environment and people are hungry for work,” said Minutoli.

Minutoli said he and Zonko came up with a figure of about $800,000 for everything needed to build the building, excluding furnishings.

When asked about any “green” aspect of the building by Councilman Chris Clark, who is also a member of the town’s environmental committee, Minutoli said the building would incorporate practical green elements, such as 2-by-8-foot exterior walls for added insulation and energy conservation, low-E glass windows and added attention to rain runoff, but not “sexy green” features, such as solar panels or anything along those lines — unless the town wants to take it to that level.

Serio said that a small task force – including herself, Councilman Bill Weistling Jr. (chairman of the Charter and Ordinance Committee), Interim Town Manager Tom Wonterek, Building Inspector Pat Schuchman and Police Chief William Boyden – will be meeting to look at options before anything official is decided.

“We will present them to council with the next step, after we refine some more things” she said of the proposal.