Fire Station Proposal Moves Toward November Vote

By Adam Swift

Town leaders have been considering building a new fire station for so long, there’s been some debate as to whether the discussions have been going on since the 1960s or “only” the 1990s. But at a special meeting on Tuesday night, the Town Council unveiled plans to build an approximately $35-$40 million new station on the site of the Wadsworth Building on Winthrop Street. The project, which includes the taking of two parcels of land by a friendly eminent domain taking, will likely be before voters on the November town election ballot. It is expected that the council will appoint a Firehouse Building Committee at its next regular meeting on August 1 to begin the work of educating the public on the details, cost, and need for the new fire station, according to Council President James Letterie. “One of my goals, when I was fortunate enough to be elected, was to have a proposal before the town (for a firehouse),” said Letterie. “There has been an incredible amount of discussion on this for many, many years, and we are just announcing our plans after a lot of effort. We thank the architectural firm of Kaestle Boos that helped us with this project over the past many years.” If the project is approved, Letterie said the two current fire stations on Pauline Street and Shirley Avenue will remain open so that there are no disruptions in service from the fire department. The next steps in the process include appointing the building committee, which Letterie said will likely have seven to nine members plus alternates, with representation from the council, the fire department, the town manager’s office, and the public. “The job of the committee over the next three months is to educate the town of Winthrop as to this proposal, to let them understand the ramifications of the cost, and the benefits of building this proposal,” said Letterie. Letterie also discussed why the council chose to move forward with a new firehouse as opposed to a public safety building that would also include a new police station. “Over the past several years, there has been much talk about a public safety building and why did we start with a firehouse?” he stated. With the two fire stations both over a century old, Letterie said there was a definite need to address those concerns. “The need is there, I don’t think there is much question of a need, the question always comes down to the cost, and the police station has done a remarkable job with their facility trying to keep it up to date,” said Letterie. The initial design for the new firehouse does include the possibility of connecting it to a new police station, either through an underground tunnel or a second floor walkway. Letterie said the town could possibly begin the process of moving forward with a new police station in eight to 10 years, when the debt service for the new middle-high school building comes off the town’s books. If the proposal passes muster at the ballot box in November, Letterie said the building committee would continue its work by assisting with the design and hiring an owner’s project manager, architect, and engineering firm for the project. Town Manager Tony Marino said part of the process is making people aware of the conditions in the current buildings. “These buildings have certainly passed their useful lives, and it is long overdue to get a new fire station in place,” said Marino. The early plans for the new fire station on Winthrop Street call for a three-story building with a basement, four bays for larger apparatus, and two bays for smaller vehicles such as ambulances, said Marino. It also includes decontamination and turnout areas, conference and training space, more room for firefighter bedrooms, and room for the health department. “Everything we need today for a modern fire station that we currently don’t have,” said Marino. Marino said the early designs will likely be tweaked as the building committee and architect work together if the project is approved in November. “The committee would spend the next six to eight months designing the building and coming up with the final product along with a lot of public input,” said Marino.

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