Building Comm. Holds Public Hearing on Fire Station Proposal

By Adam Swift

About a dozen residents took part in a public hearing on the proposed new fire station at Town Hall on Tuesday night.

A debt exclusion vote will be on the Nov. 7 town election ballot asking residents to approve funding for a new fire station at the location of the Wadsworth Building and Kirby Funeral Home. The total cost of the project is expected to fall between $36-$40 million.

Tuesday night’s public hearing featured questions about the location of the new station, comments on a potential second phase of the project that would see an addition and renovation to the police station attached to the new fire station, and comments about the need for a new fire station.

No timeline has been set for a potential vote on a second phase of the project that would include the police station, but consulting architect Kaestle Boos has provided some preliminary renderings of the project.

Town Council President Jim Letterie cautioned that the renderings are a very early stage of the project and are subject to change.

However, he said the architect did take resident feedback from an earlier meeting and changed the rendering so that the second floor of the police station would more closely match the look of the first floor of the existing building.

Some residents said they still had concerns about the amount of glass in the architectural rendering of the second floor. Letterie noted the renderings were designed to give the public an idea of how a combined public safety could look, and that there would still be plenty of time for more suggestions from the public.

Fire House Building Committee member and former Fire Chief Larry Powers gave a summary of the history of the efforts to build a new fire station in town, which stretches back to the 1960s, as well as the need for a new, modern facility.

“The common sentiment I’ve been getting around town is that we need a new fire station, the fire stations are old,” said Powers. “But then there is the segment that does the but statement, and that statement runs the gamut about everything we’ve talked about – about the site, about businesses, about cost, about you name it.”

The former chief said residents need to realize that the town decided in the 1960s that it needed a new fire station because the two stations in town were already starting to deteriorate at that time.

There was an effort to get a new station built in the 1990s, but Powers said that didn’t happen because of other priorities in town with the schools.

“What people forget is that in those intervening 60 years, those stations continued to deteriorate year after year after year,” said Powers. “It’s like having an old car, first it’s the tires, then it’s the brakes, then it’s the starter … then you get to the point where you say to yourself, ‘is it worth putting any more money into this car? It’s not worth it.’”

Powers said the town is asking its firefighters to work in buildings with mold, asbestos, and other health issues.

“The only reason those buildings are anywhere near functional on the second floors is because of the work done by the firefighters, many times with their own money.”

The next public hearing on the fire station project is scheduled for Monday, Oct. 23.

There are also tours of the existing Pauline Street and Shirley Avenue fire stations scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 21.

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