“I can honestly say we are looking at a new location due to the concerns of residents,” said Fire Chief Thomas Colangelo on Thursday. “I want to have good relations with our residents. The citizens voiced their concerns. I listened. And I found an alternative place.”
Colangelo statement came two days after the City Council gave its approval to acquire $500,000 in grant money for the project to build a 50 by 22 foot tower on city property. Council members unanimously agreed to allow the fire chief to go forward with the grant for a fire tower, but not the location.
He said the training tower would be the size of a two-story house, but a 40-foot section will allow them to train for high-angle rescues. That’s a priority for the department which is often called upon to do rescues in the Niagara Gorge.
The department had first chosen the 31st Street spot because it was close to the fire administration office. Colangelo said the department’s former fire tower training site at Hyde Park and James Avenue was torn down after being condemned.
“It was just really old,” Colangelo said. “It had been vacant for years.”
He said no matter where the tower ends up, it will be a “non-burn tower” which uses smoke machines for practice.
“It’s too hard these days to do live burns, there are more stringent regulations and when you do live burns you damage these structure,” he said.
According to the grant from the Dormitory Authority of New York State the building must be placed on city-owned property and Colangelo had suggested using city property on 31st Street – a parking lot adjacent to the former Niagara Falls Police Headquarters at 520 Hyde Park Boulevard, at the corner of 31st Street.
But neighbors objected.
Gary Baillie, who lives on 31st Street, told the Council on Monday that the fire tower would lower the property value of his home.
“The residents on the street keep our property up and that’s why we have stayed here. We have been here for years. Neighbors look out for neighbors. We take care of each other,” said Baillie.
Bob Colletti, who also lives on 31st Street, was pleased to hear of the change of plans.
“I live directly across from it and sit on the porch continually and its just so nice to know,” said Colletti. “We had a petition we passed around to the neighbors and they are very nervous.”
Colangelo has been working on the plan for four years, though the location hadn’t been determined. He said the new plan is to build the smoke and fire tower at the department’s old training facility site, a more industrial area, which is on county-owned property at Hyde Park and James Avenue.
“We will try to work something out with the county,” said Colangelo.
Construction is expected to start in the spring.