Some townspeople have said, "Our current central fire station setup still works. Why change it?"
Well, it does not work. The existing building dates back to the Model "T" Ford era, with doors that are too narrow, ceilings not high enough for today's fire engines and insufficient space for the number of fire and EMT vehicles we have now. The building is also in need of drastic repair, lacks energy efficiency and is on property that is too small for expansion. Our equipment and manpower is split between the existing Station Avenue building and the newer police station. That arrangement does not allow our EMT personnel and firefighters, many of whom are cross-trained, to respond to emergencies in accordance with the state-mandated time limits. Fire and EMT staff currently occupy space in the police station that our Police Department needs right now for their own use.
Training of personnel is spread out all over the place. Vehicles are in the central station and police station, the meeting room is at the Lost Lake Fire Station and the ladder training is at one of the public schools in town. During a three-hour training period, over an hour is used for just traveling and setup from one place to the other to complete a session. The town is paying personnel for that time, a hidden expense. As is true for doctors, nurses, engineers, lawyers and other professionals, fire and EMT personnel are required by the state to have continuing education and training to maintain their certifications. That is to the benefit of all of us.
If everything was at the new fire station, as it has been designed, the class training would be done in the meeting room, the ladder training right outside and within the combined rear exit stair/training tower and atop the roof of the meeting room. There would be no time wasted with traveling and, unlike our current going from one place to another, everyone and their equipment would be available immediately in the event of an emergency call. The savings in wages alone, over the long term, would pay for the meeting room and the combined rear exit/training tower. We would also meet the state required response times to emergency calls.
Because the training is state mandated for certification, our personnel frequently have to travel to other locations for the training. We are paying for that time, too. With the new fire station, we would do the training in Groton. That also builds camaraderie, confidence and trust amongst our personnel. That is invaluable in times of dangerous or life-threatening situations.
So, you see, our current central fire station setup doesn't work. It needs to be changed, for the benefit of all townspeople. The central fire station would be the core for our two fire sub-stations, whose facilities, including the meeting room at the Lost Lake Station, would continue to be used effectively as they are now.
Is the proposed station too big? No. The number and sizes of the vehicle bays is just adequate for the vehicles and trailers we presently have scattered here and there. Part-time firefighters are more and more becoming a rarity in this country because they work full time elsewhere, at longer and longer distances from their home towns. Full-time personnel are going to become the norm. Hence, the small dormitory rooms on the second floor become necessary. These employees have to carry 60 pound packs on their backs during firefighting and rescue operations, so the weight-training room gets and keeps them in shape in the event they may have to rescue one of us. The offices on the ground floor accommodate our current chief and staff members and all of the stationary electronic equipment and storage spaces. There is no wasted space.
Ladies and gentlemen of Groton, we need this new station for our ultimate safety. It is not overly designed. It is adequate for now and for some time to come. Fifty years was the goal. But who knows? We have been making do with an antiquated system for far too long for our own good.
LYNWOOD VALENTINE PREST
President of Groton Engineering, LLC and
Member of the Town of Groton Fire Station Committee