TOWNSEND -- After presenting a preliminary report to the Fire Department Building Committee, consultants from Kaestle Boos Associates Inc., the firm that is handling the new fire station project, will be revising their building plans to be more efficient. The preliminary schematic of the potential building is blocked out at approximately 25,000 square feet, but Mark McKeon, vice-president of the company, said he expects the square footage to go down once the plan is refined.
"We don't want to build space you don't need," he said to the committee at their Dec. 13 meeting.
One of the committee's biggest concerns with the project is cost and efficiency. Members are hoping to present an article at annual Town Meeting to get the project approved and appropriate funds, and they want to ensure that the article is one that residents will find practical. Prior to going to Town Meeting, the committee will have to meet with several town boards and committees, such as the Board of Selectmen and the Finance Committee. They also plan to have a public forum prior to Town Meeting to provide information and receive feedback from residents.
"We need to educate the public before we march into meetings and what not," said committee member Mark Mercurio. "It's not an easy sell. Townsend is by nature very conservative."
The committee will be looking into several cost-saving measures. Fire Chief Donald Klein is planning to meet with the Energy Committee to determine if the Building Committee is eligible for a portion of the Green Communities grant that the town recently received. The $156,000 grant is earmarked for energy-saving measures throughout the municipality. The Fire Department Building Committee is also looking into utilizing geothermal energy to cut down energy costs.
"It will be certainly more efficient than what you have right now as far as cost per square foot," said McKeon.
The Fire Department is currently operating out of three stations: 272 Main St., behind Town Hall, 460 Main St. in West Townsend and 65 Main St. in Townsend Harbor. They also have an ambulance station and their headquarters on Elm Street.
"We're trying to consolidate it all and get it all in one home," said Klein. "We'll be working with the Properties Committee here in town on reuse plans (for the old buildings)."
The original stations were built in 1875. The one on Townsend Harbor was replaced in 2004, but the other two remain in service.
"They've outlived their usefulness. We just can't do anything more with them to accommodate new fire equipment," said Klein. "We had to drop the floors in the bays and we can't widen them any further than what they are. It's time to move to the next generation of headquarters."
The committee has a site in mind for the new building, but Klein said they need to have further discussions with the current owners before disclosing the location. The current schematics for the fire station are for a two-story building. Originally, the architects had been considering a single-floor design. Part of the benefits of a two-story design are to decrease the building's overall footprint and allow for more yardage surrounding the building. This would give the department room to expand in the future if it becomes necessary. Additionally, the yard space can be utilized for other purposes, such as training area.
"We are looking to get our training facility here certified to be a state-wide training center," said Klein. Among a list of requirements to become accredited, he said, "We have to have space for training for those types of things. That's the reason for the extra room."
"Once it becomes certified," asked Mercurio, "will that open you up to more grant money, more federal money?"
"It opens me up to a lot of things I don't have access to today," said Klein.