DEEP RIVER— The firehouse study committee has recommended construction of a new firehouse at the 57 Union St. site of the existing building, a plan that would require demolition and a temporary relocation of fire department services to another location during a one-year construction period.
The board of selectmen and board of finance Tuesday received the report of a new study committee that was established last April to analyze options for a firehouse building project. The six member committee included two selectmen, Angus McDonald Jr. and Dave Oliveria, two representatives of the fire department, Chief Tim Lee and assistant chief Tim Ballantyne, and two at-large members that included local architect Alan Paradis.
Town officials, and members of the fire department, have been considering options to renovate or replace the existing 1961 firehouse at the corner of Union and West Elm St. since a proposal for a $2.4 million renovation and expansion project failed on a 347-312 vote in a July 2010 referendum. A more costly building plan was rejected by a much wider margin in a 2007 vote.
Oliveria said Tuesday a review of other potential sites, and the determination by firefighters that any new firehouse should be in or near the downtown area, led to the recommendation to refocus on the existing site. Oliveria said the .72-acre parcel containing the existing firehouse could be combined with an abutting parcel at 51 union St. that is owned by the department to create a 1-acre lot that could support new two-story firehouse of between 9,500 and 10,100 square feet. The size of the proposed new building would double the size of the existing 5,084 square-foot firehouse, but is scaled back from the building plan presented to voters in 2010.
But committee members acknowledged the recommendation to demolish and rebuild on site is not without complications. The most notable would be the need to relocate all department services, including storage of trucks and equipment, to a temporary fire headquarters during the approximate one-year construction period. The cost of a temporary relocation for the department has not been determined.
There have also been some objections to demolishing a house on the 51 Union St. parcel, though Chief Lee said a majority of the volunteers would support directing the 51 Union St. parcel to provide space for a new firehouse. The parcel was acquired by the fire department a decade ago.
The committee included two alternative sites in the report, options that would require the town to purchase additional property at an undetermined additional cost. The sites are residential properties at 208 Main St. and 423 Main St. on the south end of town near the intersection with Kelsey Hill Road. “There are two other properties but the next best alternative, I don’t know,” said McDonald.
The committee recommended the two boards consider hiring an architect to develop more detailed plans for demolition and new construction at the Union Street parcels. Selectmen and the finance board are expected to discuss the firehouse building project further in 2015.