By Hiroko Sato

MediaNews

GROTON -- A little more than a year after breaking the ground for the $5.9 million construction of the new Center Fire Station began, the town is almost ready to celebrate its opening.

At a selectmen's meeting on Monday night, Town Manager Mark Haddad said that town officials are now walking through the building with a "punch list" in their hands to make sure everything is done the way it's meant to. All problems requiring attention are minor and cosmetic in nature, Haddad said. And firefighters have begun moving boxes in, said fire Capt. Susan Daly.

The two-story station totals 18,500 square feet, including amenities that can be used for various types of training.

"Everything seems to be in really good shape," Haddad said.

The good news comes six months after the town fired its contractor, TLT Construction Corp., and decided to continue the project on its own. Town officials have cited a litany of problems with the Wakefield-based contractor, including its alleged failure to provide enough skilled workers.

Despite the problem, construction was completed on time. And according to Haddad, it should come in under budget, if not right on budget.

That's because town officials kept a close eye on the project, said Selectman Jack Petropoulos.

"Every time a ball got dropped, Mark Haddad and his finance team picked up the ball and made sure they hit the ground running," Petropoulos said.

The new firehouse will replaces the aging Center Fire Station on Station Avenue. The new facility allows the Fire Department to bring together emergency vehicles kept at the existing Center Fire Station and at the department headquarters in the annex of the police station on Pleasant Street. Fire Chief Joseph Bosselait has said the new firehouse contains plenty of space for the town's three dozen firefighters to practice scenarios while providing easy road access to respond to emergency calls, he said.

Most important, the new facility should provide enough space to accommodate additional staff should the town decide to rely on full-time firefighters instead of on-call firefighters in the future, Selectman Joshua Degen said.

"It certainly meets the need of the town of Groton at least for the next 50 years," Degen said.

The building also has a courtyard with a memorial for Sept. 11 victims, which is made with a 280-pound piece of girder from New York's World Trade Center.

Haddad said the firehouse will likely be fully occupied July 1 and hold an open house sometime in August.