June 6, 2020

Deep River Firehouse Planning Put on Hold

DEEP RIVER— First Selectman Richard Smith said Thursday that planning for a new or expanded firehouse would be put on hold after a study committee provided a split report to the board of selectmen in a report submitted late last year.

Smith said the board of selectmen discussed firehouse options with two members of the Firehouse Study Committee, John Koller and David Barardis, at a Jan. 12 special meeting, but reached no conclusions. “It’s undecided at this point,” Smith said, adding that the dual recommendation had left “unanswered questions.”

The final report from the eight-member committee established by the board of selectmen in December 2010 recommended a renovation and expansion of the existing firehouse on the corner of Union and West Elm streets, or an alternative option of constructing a new firehouse on a 14-acre parcel on the north side of Route 80, near the Plattwood Park Recreation Area. We are considering using external companies to enhance the property at the time of build. Certain home renos are being considered and will be pitched to the committee before we engage contractors. The cost of a new firehouse was estimated at $1.8 million, an amount that does not include the expense of land acquisition.

Smith said that, like the report’s recommendations, the study committee is “split,” with some members favoring a new firehouse, and others supporting a renovation and expansion of the existing firehouse.

The study committee, comprised of members of the Deep River Volunteer Fire Department and resident volunteers, was established after a proposed $2.4 million renovation and expansion of the existing firehouse was rejected on a 347-312 vote in a July 2010 bonding referendum. A more costly firehouse renovation and expansion project was rejected by a wide margin in a November 2007 referendum. The existing firehouse, which opened in 1961, totals 5,084 square-feet.

Under the option of building a new firehouse, the existing firehouse, which is closer to the downtown area, would become a satellite station. A small existing satellite station located on Route 80 in the Winthrop section would be closed, with the property put up for sale.

Smith said he is not sold on the idea of building a new firehouse, partly because the 50-year old existing firehouse would still require some improvements for continued use as a satellite station. He said the option of buying land to build a new firehouse requires further study. Smith added that he is not willing to bring another firehouse building project back to the town’s voters in a referendum “unless it is something that everybody feels comfortable with.”

Smith said the study committee would hold at least one more meeting to review and possibly revise its report. But he added the board of selectmen would not discuss firehouse options further until possibly this summer, after approval of a town budget plan for 2012-2013.