Re-Open the Silver Lake Firehouse as Promised


Belleville First Ward resident Frank Fleischman has written a letter to Mayor Kimble and the Town Council regarding the endlessly stalled renovation of the Silver Lake Firehouse, which recently appears to be off the table altogether in light of a possible offer by the developer of the Roche property to build a new firehouse for the township, at some undetermined point in the future.

Fleischman’s letter comes on the heels of yet another devastating fire that occurred in Silver Lake this past Saturday night on Heckel Street, destroying two buildings. This happened just one week after a fire broke out on nearby Belmont Avenue, and reportedly marks the third significant fire in Silver Lake this year.

Here is his letter to the Council:



An Open Letter to the Mayor and Council

Regarding the Silver Lake Firehouse


Dear Mayor Kimble and members of the Town Council,

Due to a family commitment, my wife and I will not be able to attend the council meeting on Tuesday, December 8th. Therefore, I am writing to convey our concerns over a subject that we have been bringing to your attention for close to a year now. Many of my neighbors and fellow Silver Lake and larger First Ward residents share these same concerns.

I am certain that all of you now know another house fire occurred in the Silver Lake area of Belleville. This is the second one in a week, and the third in less than a year in Silver Lake. The houses involved in these two recent fires were literally a block from each other. Thankfully, nobody was injured or killed, which is of the highest importance.

It goes without saying that Belleville’s firefighters, as well as those from towns near and far who answered the call of mutual aid, worked tirelessly and valiantly to knock down, control and finally extinguish these obviously stubborn fires. Belleville’s police were directive, but respectful when dealing with people who were upset and angry. These men and women deserve our thanks and admiration. I also have no doubt that my fellow Belleville residents have helped, and will help, the victims of these fires.

During this past Saturday’s fire, Carmela and I stood on Heckel Street with residents of that street who watched the fire rage. We spoke with many of these neighbors, who were obviously concerned and some were very upset and shocked. Several of them looked at us in disbelief when we told them that the nearest firehouse on Franklin Street had been closed for nearly three years!

During the three hours we stood and watched, the question weighed on my mind: What would have happened if the Silver Lake firehouse had been manned and open?

Carmela and I have brought this subject up repeatedly to you – with some raised voices and heated discussions a few times – and I am sure you are probably tired of hearing about it. Believe me, we do not take pleasure in repeating ourselves about this, but we cannot in good conscience allow this issue to remain unresolved. I won’t even spend time on how frustrated we are with the fact that the firehouse was closed and that neither we, nor apparently any of my neighbors, had been informed.

In the past year, we have been told a variety of things about the Silver Lake firehouse, why it had been closed and what you as the town’s leaders intended to do about it. We were initially told the roof was damaged and that there was asbestos in the building, thus rendering it uninhabitable. That it has been deemed inhabitable every year as a polling place during elections makes that determination seem questionable.

When we asked what was being done to re-open the firehouse, we were told on many occasions that several things had to be done, such as having it inspected to assess the damage, putting the repairs out to bid, securing funding and having an architect draw up plans. I think it is fair to say that we, as well as other residents, demonstrated considerable patience with the town this past year regarding the status of the firehouse. When we were told that inspectors determined the building did not have asbestos and monies – more than $200,000 – had been bonded for improvements, we felt that the re-opening of the Silver Lake firehouse would become a reality, even if it would take some time for repairs and renovations.

It seems as if this issue had been forgotten as soon as an announcement had been made that the new developer of the former Roche property had agreed to pay for the construction of a new two-bay firehouse on or near the intersection of Franklin Avenue and Mill Street. While this may be so, it does nothing to solve the immediate issue.

This proposed new firehouse can’t be considered a reality until plans are made and finalized. Even if the proposal is bona fide, I don’t think it’s a stretch in thinking that it may take several years to complete. I doubt highly that the construction of a new firehouse will take priority over the developer’s plans for the property. Although I don’t know much about the property’s developer, you will forgive my skepticism and unease; developers have come in promising all kinds of great benefits to Belleville and its residents, and then pulling up stakes and going elsewhere for whatever reasons.

Silver Lake and the First Ward needs better fire protection, and by better I mean closer. Re-opening the Silver Lake firehouse will improve Belleville’s already good response times, will provide more immediate service and will give residents more peace of mind, especially since the firehouse has often acted as a deterrent to criminal activity in the area.

Fortunately, the three fires that Silver Lake has suffered this past year resulted solely in property damage and loss. We cannot, however, count on that. There is always the possibility that a life could be lost as a result of a fire. Fully-staffed neighborhood firehouses can certainly help minimize the risk to life and property.

This is a time for you, as a governing body, to put aside personal feelings or political agendas and work together to resolve this issue. If you are already committed to the proposal for a new firehouse, so be it; there will be time to debate that in the future. However, in the interim, it is in the best interest of Silver Lake, and Belleville as a whole, for you to honor the commitment you made and use the bonded monies to repair, renovate and re-open the Silver Lake firehouse.



Frank Fleischman III




About Griff 321 Articles
Lee "Griff" Dorry - Founder, watchdog, and public advocate. ♫ They've got strings, but you can see, there are no strings on me. ♫

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