Fire Chief Pressing for New Station

By Sue Ellen Woodcock

Fire Chief Paul Flanagan could not stress enough the need for a public safety building that could house the police and fire departments at the Fall Forum on Tuesday night.

The town manager and the town council held the annual Fall Forum with topics ranging from the Fire Department to changes in the health department to human resources and problem properties. Town employees had the opportunity to explain the work that they have been doing for the past year, including research into the possibility of building either a new fire station or public safety building.

Over the years, feasibility studies have been done and money spent to study the need for a new station but none have come to fruition. Two of the more recent studies took place in 1993 and 1997.The Pauline Street fire station was built in 1889, and the Winthrop Beach fire station on Shirley Street was built in 1904. The police station was the old town Post Office that was acquired in 1993.

Police Chief Terence Delehanty said his new deputy chief has an office in a conference room, the detective unit is not handicap accessible.

“The question is to redo each facility separately or build a joint building,” Delehanty said.

Flanagan explained that today’s firefighting apparatus is bigger and heavier than in the past, and a far cry from the days of horses pulling firefighting equipment. To accommodate the 105-foot aerial ladder truck the floor in the beach station was lowered in 1977. Mutual aid apparatus assisting from other communities can not fit into either station.

“On a sunny day, its no problem to leave a truck out, but snow?” Flanagan said.

Over the years the estimated cost to build a public safety facility has increased. In 1997 it was estimated at $4.5 million. Today it could cost anywhere between $15-$20 million to build. Where to build it could be the next question, and rumors of using the old middle school site have been bounced around. He noted that the cornices at the Pauline Street station are not stable and two have already fallen off. The 1968 diesel generator at the Shirley Street station has an EPA complaint against it because of the smoke it spews and the noise. The roof over the ladder truck on Shirley Street needs to be replaced and the.

Most importantly, Flanagan explained, is that response times for emergency calls are good. The first piece of apparatus on scene is there in four minutes or less and all equipment is there within eight minutes.

Other highlights of the Fall Forum, which is required by the town charter, included:

  • A reminder from the Town Clerk that the Nov. 7 election will feature new polling sites, and voters should take notice. Precincts 1, 3, and 6 will vote at the middle/high school. Precinct 2 and 5 will vote at the Cummings School and Precinct 4 votes on Golden Drive.
  • Improvements were noted at Coughlin Park, the town landing, the Belle Isle Ecology Park, Lewis Lake, Miller and Veterans Field,
  • Energy Manager Frank Nitti shared the work that the town has been doing to make it a green community. In July of this year the town completed a power purchase agreement supplying all town-side buildings with 100 percent local. renewable solar energy from a project in Haverhill.
  • Interesting notes from Town Clerk Carla Vitale – 137 business certificates were issued – 1,494 dog licenses were issued. Over 15,000 birth records have been digitized covering 1953-2005.
  • The town inspectional services department continues to address problem properties. So far 26 problem properties have been solved, with 12 percent going through the receivership program, 42 percent were restored or recovered by coming in to compliance with code, and 46 percent were sold and have a new owner. In the past three years 2,071 citations were issued to the owners of problem properties.

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