Saturday, June 6, 2015

Windham hopes to trade up to a new South Windham fire station - By Michelle Libby

The South Windham Fire Station has been at 8 Main Street since it was built in 1966 and before that the location has housed a fire station since 1934. However with today’s equipment and needs the existing space isn’t working. 
“The biggest challenge is location,” said Fire Chief Brent Libby. “We currently have 3,500 square feet of space.” The need to keep a station in South Windham trumps any other needs, according to Libby.
The current location has been added on to and can’t grow any further due to its location right on the Presumpscot River. Problems begin with the settling of the building, parking is an issue, when trucks pull in or out of the station, and they have to stop traffic to get the truck into the road or to back into the bay, and end with a lack of space for what they need. 

The station is a cooperative one with Gorham and in addition to monetarily sharing a ladder truck, they go on calls together and have since 1934. This past year 391 calls were responded to from that station. North Windham had 827 calls for service and Central Windham has 707. 

The South Windham station also houses Gorham’s engine 1, and unit 8, a response pick up truck, as well as a Hazmat truck. Both towns use the trucks as necessary, according to Libby.

The owner of record of the property at 33 Main Street, MCL Realty LLC, approached the town to see if it wanted to purchase the land and buildings at that location for a new fire station. 

“It wasn’t a priority,” said Libby. Two years ago the town did a building study and last year it did a feasibility study, but Libby said he didn’t see anything happening for a while. 

The space at 33 Main Street has 12,000 square feet in a metal building attached to a small log home. The existing production space is a good fit for making truck bays and other things the firefighters need. The feasibility study said that the existing building can be used as a fire station with some upgrades. There is public water and sewer that the building can connect to and a sprinkler system is already in place. 

Other changes to the building include adding bay doors, and reinforcing the metal because the building is considered critical infrastructure. They will also add showers, a kitchen and bunks. 

The space is better because it is off Route 302 using a shared driveway with other businesses as part of an industrial condominium complex.  There is plenty of space for the ladder truck to get in and out of the building, Libby said. A drive through door system will be added to assist with that. There is also access from the property onto Depot Street. 

“This gives us the flexibility and options if we need more space,” Libby said. Windham also houses three live in college students from the SMCC fire science program, who provide coverage and response. The building wouldn’t be ready for a year. “I think it’s a good opportunity the owner has offered to the town. We can keep the fire station in that neighborhood. It’s the best option to come up with,” Libby said.
The town will need to “authorize the issuance of up to $1,668,000 in general obligation bonds or notes.” This includes the land, building upgrades and improvements. If the town was to build a new fire station in South Windham, if it could even find the land to do this, it would cost at least $2 million. “There’s not a lot of real estate in that village,” Libby said.  

“The cost to acquire the buildings and an interest in the land at 33 Main Street is $700,000. The cost of the renovations, including design/engineering, and contingency, is estimated at $968,000, for a total project cost of $1,668,000,” said Town Manager Tony Plante. The contact for the town has been former town councilor and marketing strategist Peter Anania. The future of the project is in the hands of the voters. “This will meet the needs now and in the future,” said Libby. 

The project will be voted on at a special town meeting immediately following the regular annual town meeting on Saturday, June 13, 2015. The annual town meeting begins at 9:45 a.m. with the election of a moderator and consideration of the annual budget begins at 10 a.m.

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