Jan. 7, 2005 — The closing of the Dorothea Fire Station last Thursday has some Northside residents concerned about the lack of notification and the general state of fire stations on St. Thomas.
"We need to have some sort of game plan about what's going on," Jason Budsan, a member of the Northside Civic Organization, said Saturday evening. "When the Dorothea station closed there were no public announcements made and there were no press releases sent out, so no one knew anything about it."
Budsan said he found out the station was closed after he was contacted Friday by other Northside residents. "We really need to be told about things like this," he added. "Suppose something happensthere's only two fire stations on the island that can service us. That's not the kind of situation we need to be in. We need to find out the status of all the stations and the other things that need to be fixed."
When contacted Saturday morning, Donald Charles, Fire Services spokesman, said he expects the station to re-open within the next two to three weeks, after structural repairs have been completed on the building.
Charles explained that the station was closed Thursday after fire officials found that it was in "poor condition."
"This property is over 50 years old, and like other fire stations around the territory, it is falling apart," Charles said. "The roof at the Dorothea station is our biggest problem right now, however." Charles noted that fire stations in Coral Bay on St. John and Grove Place on St. Croix are also in disrepair.
Charles said fire officials have been speaking to contractors so work can begin at the Dorothea station. "We have done an assessment through one contractor, but we still have to speak to two more contractors before anything can happen," he said.
While Budsan said he is pleased with the news, he also believes that repairs on the Dorothea station should be conducted "properly." He said Fire Services Director Merwin Potter has known about the station's problems since it first opened and "should have put every effort" into making sure they were addressed.
"We've heard that the fire station on West End [Bordeaux] is supposed to be finished within the next few weeks. Let's focus on finishing that up, then really work on the Dorothea station and take care of all the things that need to be taken care of," he said. "We can't just put a band-aid on everything and hope that the problems go away."
"The station keeps opening and closing, opening and closing, and it's ridiculous. We should put all our efforts into getting the station completed so this doesn't happen again," Budsan added.
Anne Arnold, president of the Northside Civic Organization, added that the group previously offered to help Fire Services rebuild the roof so repairs could be expedited. "We've offered several times to take care of the roof, and said that we had mechanics and carpenters that could pitch in," she said. "We were told that the problem is being taken care of."
Arnold also said government funds have been made available for other fire station projects around the island. "We need to tap into sources like that," she said. "You can't just expect to open a building, let it sit for a few years, and expect that it will maintain itself. It's cheaper to take care of it then to build a whole new station."
Focusing on other issues, Budsan said he and Arnold hope to testify on the state of Northside roads at a Government Operations and Consumer Protection Committee meeting scheduled Monday at the Earle B. Ottley Legislative Hall on St. Thomas (See News Brief: Sen. Donastorg Solicits Public Input on Road Repairs).
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