By Emily Royalty
TOWNSEND -- The Fire-EMS Headquarters Building Committee hopes to move forward with an article for the annual Town Meeting to get voter approval for new headquarters. Fire Chief Donald Klein presented the committee's plans to the Board of Selectmen at their meeting on Tuesday night. The committee has been working with architecture firm Kaestle Boos for about six months preparing plans for headquarters that would consolidate their existing buildings spread over town.
The preliminary cost estimate for the project is $11,313,000. The town would likely be applying for a 20-year bond. The number has come down from an original $13 million estimate, and Klein said the committee is continuing to look into additional cost-saving measures.
Fire station building plans have been in the works for the building for nearly 18 years. The first fire station study was completed in 1996. Throughout the years, plans were held up and the department acquired more buildings after merging with the EMS Department. A second needs analysis was presented in 2009.
But, said Klein, "Economic conditions didn't allow us to move forward with any kind of feasibility study until recently."
Klein said there is no way for the current buildings to continue accommodating the needs of the department. The original three buildings, which were built in 1875, have continued to be renovated throughout the decades to accommodate the evolving and expanding fire trucks.
"We've done everything we could possibly do to not undermine the structures themselves," said Klein.
Within the current garages, he said, there's no room to work on the fire engines.
"If we want to do anything on the trucks in terms of winter months, we have to pull them out of the bays," said Klein.
Klein listed other problems with the current facilities, including antiquated HVAC and electrical systems and the spread-out nature of the five separate buildings not allowing for efficient operations. In some instances, the garage behind Town Hall has not allowed for proper access due to a congestion of cars in the parking lot.
The current plan for the new headquarters, which is in its conceptual stage, is to have a two-story building located directly on Route 119 that would house drive-through bays, office space, storage and training grounds. A looped parking lot would allow for easy access for engines into and out of the facility.
The two-story building would allow for a smaller footprint that a single-level structure. Additionally, the plans show the second floor being utilized only for departmental purposes, such as the bunk room and showers; this would eliminate the need for an elevator, said Klein, which could run over $10,000.
The committee is also looking into using radiant heat in the bays, which heats from the ground up, as opposed to the heating in the current buildings which heats from the top down, starting with the large empty space above the trucks.
Klein said he has spoken with other chiefs in the area who use radiant heating; he said they have "seen a dramatic savings in the cost of heating their buildings."
The committee has also consulted with the Energy Committee about cost-saving alternatives going forward. They plan to consult with the Properties Committee about the best way to recycle the current buildings.
The committee will also be seeking support from the Finance Committee, the Capital Planning Committee and holding informational forums for the general public prior to Town Meeting.
"Everybody on my committee is a taxpayer in this community. We don't want to needlessly increase our taxes if we don't have to, but at same time we also know we can't continue to operate with what we have," said Klein. "We need to do something and we need to do something today."
In other business Selectman Nick Thalheimer announced that he will not be seeking reelection. He made the decision after finding out his wife is pregnant with their first child.