Dover Twp. Fire Chief: 'Something needs to be done' about firefighter dorms

Lindsey O'Laughlin
York Dispatch

The estimated cost to revamp the live-in dormitories at the Dover Township Fire Department would exceed $1 million, according to a feasibility study presented to the township's Board of Supervisors Monday.

Discussions about updating the dorms have been going on for years, said Chief Brian Widmayer, and they're sorely needed, he added.

"If you want to continue to have a volunteer fire service in Dover, something needs to be done, and it needs to be done soon," Widmayer said to the supervisors.

The Dover Township Fire Department is an all-volunteer service, but the department offers live-in dormitories to some firefighters. They have to either have a job or be a student to qualify, Widmayer said.

Dover Township Fire Department has several live-in dormitories for some of it's volunteer firefighters. Chief Brian Widmayer says the dorms need to be updated. Wednesday, August 12., 2020.
John A. Pavoncello photo

In their current form, the dorms have individual rooms separated by drywall partitions, the chief said, and they technically aren’t up to code for fire inspections.

The feasibility study, prepared by TKS Architects near Mechanicsburg, showed two options for updating the dorms. It estimates the overhaul costing between $1 million and $1.4 million. 

The $1 million option would require firefighters to temporarily move into trailers set up in the parking lot while contractors renovated the dorm, said township manager Laurel Oswalt.

The second, $1.4 million option would allow firefighters to remain in the existing dorms while contractors build an addition where the new dorms would be located, Oswalt said.

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Deputy Chief Brian Widmayer runs the live-in volunteer firefighter program at Dover Township Fire Department, Wednesday January 13, 2016. (John A. Pavoncello - The York Dispatch)

Neither price estimate includes the cost of design or project management, she said.

Widmayer urged the supervisors to consider the second option that would let the volunteers stay in their dorm area while the new space is being built.

He said it would be a “total nightmare” trying to manage everyone while they were living in trailers, dealing with the elements and managing emergency calls.

Public works director Michael Fleming agreed with Widmayer and recalled when some township employees had to work out of trailers for a couple of months during an office renovation around 1999-2000.

"It’s one thing to work out of a trailer,” Fleming said. “It’s another thing to live out of a trailer."

Dover Township Fire firefighters Chad Gettys, left, and Dylan Imler, and Captain Nathan Baker enjoy lunch at the station, Wednesday, August 12., 2020.
John A. Pavoncello photo

The supervisors also asked about what had happened with preliminary talks about merging the Dover Township Fire Department with Dover Borough’s Union Fire & Hose Co. No. 1, headquartered down the street from the township office.

Oswalt said the outbreak of COVID-19 had stalled those discussions.

After the meeting, Widmayer said the two fire companies have been talking for years about potentially merging, and that the municipalities only recently became involved.

The Board of Supervisors didn’t take any action Monday, and Vice Chairman Rob Stone said he’d like to know how the potential merger would impact plans for renovations before making any decisions.

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