A new home for New England Fire Department: City’s new Emergency Services Center opens

NEW ENGLAND -- Bringing together New England's Emergency Services Center was a community effort, its directors say. After a year of construction, the new center opened its doors Sept. 20, the first major update to the town's emergency services si...

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Press Photo by Nadya Faulx The New England Emergency Services Center opened Sept. 20. With a growing population and an increase in calls, the rural fire and ambulance departments had outgrown the old facility downtown.

NEW ENGLAND - Bringing together New England’s Emergency Services Center was a community effort, its directors say.
After a year of construction, the new center opened its doors Sept. 20, the first major update to the town’s emergency services since 1986. Initially, the plan was to expand the existing three-bay firehouse and ambulance center downtown, but developers quickly decided to go forward with a new building entirely.
“What really got the ball rolling was one of the local farmers donated the property,” Rural Fire Director Twig Zahn said. “He could see the need.”
Though Hettinger County still hasn’t had a producing oil well, an increasing population in New England has brought an increase of emergency calls. New England’s fire and ambulance also serves residents in four counties, covering an area of up to 700 square miles.
“The bulk of fire calls are rescue calls,” Zahn said. “Even though we don’t have any active wells, we feel the impact from traffic.”
Zahn and New England Rural Fire Protection District Secretary Stuart Nielsen led a committee to assess the needs of both fire and ambulance crews, and guide the design of the new building. The biggest need, Nielsen said, was space. Vehicles were squeezed into bays in the old facility with ambulances kept back-to-back.
“What we had before was way too small,” he said. “It created a lot of problems. With this one, there’s plenty of room for vehicles, equipment, training.”
At 11,000 square feet, the updated facility is almost three times the size of the old building, which will be converted into a shop for the city, and features two bedrooms for ambulance shift crews, a lounge area for responders and a large meeting room for trainings and community use. The new building can comfortably house two ambulances and seven trucks, and safety-wise, the crews are in a much better place than before, Nielsen said.
“It’s a way better situation,” he said. “It’s something we needed to do. It allows us to have better quality of services for our district and the community we serve.”
The roughly $1.3 million project was financed in part by Community Block Development Grants and energy impact money, with more funds coming from New England and Slope, Stark and Hettinger counties. The rest, Nielsen said, came from the community.
“Everything else was donations from business and individuals,” he said. “Everything together is what made this possible. It was a total community effort.”
In addition to the donated land and fill material, developers also received free labor from New England-based Schwartz Construction, which pitched in roughly $36,000 worth of work. General contractor Scull Construction kept the project under budget, Nielsen said. In the end, the departments borrowed only $125,000 to cover expenses.
There is still some work left to do on the parking lot, but a grand opening is scheduled for Oct. 18 to allow the public to tour the new center.
“It’s fantastic that we’ve got this done,” Nielsen said. “We worked long and hard to get to this point.”
Faulx is a reporter for The Dickinson Press. Contact her at 701-456-1207.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated Schwartz Construction donated $360,000 worth of labor.

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