By Chris Concannon
The morning silence along Bell Road in Mt. Ephraim September 13 was broken around 7 a.m. by the sound of a running backhoe, as demolition began on the Mt. Ephraim Fire Department’s (Station 45) Bell Road Station.
Station 45 Chief Brian Gilmore said the $3 million project, which they hope to have completed by mid- 2011 (weather permitting), also included a vacant home adjacent to the rear of the firehouse property.
Gilmore said they, along with the Borough of Mt. Ephraim, purchased the home in 2003.
The original building was built around 1927.
Sacred Heart Church, now on Kings Highway, originally held services there. A second section for the ball-room was added in 1964.
Gilmore and a few members were on hand as the backhoe continued to rattle and hum in the background, knocking down section after section of brick, mortar, steel and glass.
“The new building will double the original footprint of 5,000 square feet,” the firefighters said.
The Chief had several fond memories of the old building, especially when he became engaged to his wife there.
He said the new building is the culmination of a 2001 consolidation plan, originally spearheaded by the late Jim Sylvester and John West.
They, along with Gloucester City Firefighter Tom Stewart III, were killed in the tragic July 4, 2002 fire at Broadway and Mercer Street, Gloucester City, which also saw the loss of the three young Slack sisters.
Gilmore said an unimaginable amount of volunteer hours went into getting the project completed.
All fire apparatus and equipment will be temporarily housed at the old Lambert Avenue station off of Kings Highway.
Besides the demolition work, the Chief also said they received a $750,000 grant to eliminate flooding problems along Bell Road.
He said the new drainage system would run along Bell Road, from the rear of the Kershaw School to the Route 295 overpass heading into Bellmawr.