Burdett breaks ground for new building
BURDETT--After working on a project for more than 20 years, it's a great day when it all comes together. The Burdett Fire Department celebrated two milestones this week - the 120th anniversary of its founding and the groundbreaking for their long-awaited new fire hall on Route 79, slated to open a little less than six months from now.
Some site work was already in progress. A detention pond for surface run-off has been partially constructed; the spot where the building will stand is being graded; trees have been cut and large chunks of gravel dumped and leveled at the entry to the site from the highway. A fleet of large machinery stands waiting to be used and a large Edger Enterprises truck holds tools at the ready. Edger is the principal contractor for this project. At 11 a.m. on Friday, May 11, spectators gathered near a ceremonial pile of dirt studded with gold-painted shovels.
As Burdett Mayor and former Fire Chief Dale Walter noted, the group has come a long way from the converted shed that once held a pull-along fire truck. Many fund-raisers later, they were ready for a large building, built in 1948 on the site of a former mill pond, and currently still in use. Back then, when it was a smaller structure, the blowing of the fire whistle meant the first volunteers on the scene had to move a support post so the equipment could be driven out.
Walter says when he hung up his chief's hat to become the mayor a quarter of a century ago, he promised the community that it and the fire department would grow together. The new 11,000 square foot structure will house the village hall and village records as well as community areas and multi-purpose rooms intended for shared use, including as an emergency shelter if need arises. "We want to keep things as open as possible," he says. Although the village of Burdett is about two square miles, Burdett emergency personnel serve a 48 square mile area.
Before the golden shovels were picked up, there was much reminiscence about the long-term commitment of the community to the fire department and the importance of the new building to the village and surrounding areas. "My Dad helped with the building in 1948," said Marty Evans, who serves as one of the fire department's two commissioners, along with Walter. "I'm so glad I'm on the board to see this one."
Evans wasn't yet born when her father worked on the current fire hall. But Virginia Eaton, a lifelong resident of Burdett, was an active supporter of the group until she died--sadly, last week, a few days before her 95th birthday and before she could see the building begun. Walter, among others, spoke of Eaton with fondness and sadness. Her daughters Sheryl Thurston and Debbie McDonald were on hand. "We're here in honor of Mom," McDonald said. "This was one of the things she wanted to see happen."
A crowd of dignitaries, many of whom have been integrally involved in the project, were also on hand. Chris Bond, from Hunt Engineers, Architects and Surveyors in Big Flats, who worked on the design for two years, was praised for his willingness to incorporate multiple changes. Returning the compliments, he called members of the fire department a great group with a lot of community support.
Keith Caslin, a captain in the fire department, noted the new building will be an asset to village businesses. NY State Senator Tom O'Mara said, "You've done a lot of work; the drawings are spectacular!" O'Mara helped the group obtain funds for planning and site development. Schuyler County Legislator Phil Barnes recalled this group has "flipped millions of pancakes" to get to this point, adding, "And we know it's not going to be extravagant, because Burdett is always conscientious with taxpayers' money."
Other legislators and area dignitaries also spoke in praise of the project and the perseverance needed to reach this point in an era of tight funding and much red-tape. Said Fire Chief Jason Kelly, "This is one of the best days of our lives. We can't appreciate everyone enough!"
Added Walter, "It took us 120 years to get here--we wanted to make sure we did it right!"
With that, he and several others picked up their ceremonial shovels and moved some dirt to no place in particular while joking they had no intention of moving the entire pile. The crowd began to drift away as the real work of earth-moving and fire hall construction resumed.