The reopening of a Southeast firehouse that has undergone $656,000 in interior renovations has been delayed because the front doors do not open and close properly.
Station 19 at 2813 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, which was closed nearly two years ago, was scheduled to reopen this past Monday. But during an inspection last week officials from the D.C. departments of public works and fire found that motors operating the station's front doors did not function correctly.
"Sometimes the door would work, sometimes it wouldn't," said Tara Hamilton, spokeswoman for the public works department. "I'm glad we detected it before it was handed over to the fire department. It makes a smoother transition if we find any problems that are still there before the station opens."
The city has ordered new motors from the Chicago manufacturer. The motors are expected to arrive this week but a new date for the station's reopening, already 10 months overdue, is uncertain, Hamilton said.
Meanwhile, Station 19's engine companies remain at Station 32, a mile away at 24th and Irving streets SE, where they were transferred after the 74-year-old station was closed for renovation.
Chief Ray Alfred of the fire department said that the fire companies housed at 14th and V streets SE respond to fires once answered by the Pennsylvania Avenue station. The two stations are about a mile apart. The station closing has affected response time by only "seconds" to fires in the area, he said.
The Pennsylvania Avenue stationhouse, built in 1911 and among the city's oldest, is the fifth District firehouse closed for renovation since 1979. Renovations usually take six to nine months, Alfred said.
"Not having looked through our records, I'd say it's probably the longest we've had a construction overrun," Alfred said.
The city originally budgeted $610,000 for the complete renovation of the firehouse and hired the MTI Construction Co. of Washington to do the work. Later the city added $46,000 to the contract, Hamilton said, though she could not specify what the added work included.
The renovation work began on Jan. 16, 1984 and was to have been completed eight months later on August 13, according to city officials. The delay occurred in part because the original electrical subcontractor left the project and had to be replaced, Alfred said.
The renovation involved totally gutting the station's interior, repairing the roof and furnace and installing a new electrical system, new outside sirens, two underground gasoline tanks and a restroom equipped for the handicapped. The second floor sleeping quarters were also rebuilt, retaining the old-fashioned brass poles used by firemen to reach the first floor.
Local residents served by the firehouse do not seem concerned by the delays.
"We haven't had it come up at any of our meetings and we haven't had any complaints," said William Blount, chairman of the Advisory Neighborhood Commission in the area. "I guess we've been pretty lucky. We haven't had many fires in our community to cause us to take notice of that."