The 150-plus donations from individuals, families, businesses and community organizations were as large as $250,000 to as small as $40 left in an envelope with a note saying, “Thank you, firemen.”
“That’s the spirit of our community,” Chief John Soisson said during the grand opening and ribbon-cutting event Thursday night. “This town steps up like nobody else.”
Architect Joe Weithman, while thanking the many people involved in getting the station built, said it’s “very unusual” to have such significant support from the community. He also said designing the building in some ways became a challenge as more people, businesses and organizations were “adding to the pie.”
“You guys should be proud,” Weithman added. “If your community didn’t give so much, we’d be done a lot quicker.”
Dozens upon dozens of people attended the event Thursday for the 17,000-square foot station. The new facility at 108 Whittlesey Ave. replaces the station at 42 Whittlesey Ave. Firefighters closed the original building Nov. 7 with a moving “last call.”
Plans for building the new station started in 2008, but the recession caused the project to be shelved until 2015. That was when the Blue Ribbon Committee was resurrected.
“We could not have done this without your efforts,” Norwalk Mayor Rob Duncan said.
As the project moved along, Duncan said council president Steve Euton kept the members on task to be “as frugal as possible,” yet urged them to envision a station that wouldn’t just be functional, but “a point of pride” for the city of Norwalk.
Lt. Charlie Hillman, union president of Norwalk Firefighters Local 1199, said he believes a fire station should be the “crown jewel” of each community. He pointed out that the crew gave many tours of the original building and the glass panes in the bay windows of the new facility will allow people to see the fleet and equipment.
Without Soisson’s vision and perseverance, the station wouldn’t be as beautiful as it is, Hillman said.
The chief, in turn, credited Capt. Aaron Lynch and Lt. Curt Stang for their input and knowledge.
“These guys have been with me every step of the way,” said Soisson, noting Lynch aimed for perfection.
Bill Spurgeon, chief deputy state fire marshal, said the new building epitomizes Norwalk’s commitment to public safety. He also praised Soisson for seeing the process through in an “incredible community you, the firefighters and the community and have.”
Just as the firefighters took care of the original station and were good stewards, Hillman said “we are dedicated to making this station last another 106 years.”