Brunswick chief makes case for more modest fire station

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BRUNSWICK — When Fire Chief Kenneth Brillant started his career as a firefighter in 1992 at Central Station, he thought the department needed a new building.

More than a quarter century later, his opinion has only grown stronger. 

Hoping they’d see how desperately the department needs an updated building, he led Town Councilors Jane Millett, Daniel Ankeles, Daniel Jenkins and Kathy Wilson on a tour of the nearly 100-year-old building Monday night.

“Since there are a few new town councilors, I thought it’d be good for them to see what we are really dealing with here and that the need for this new building is pretty high,” Brillant said.

The tour came after Brillant was asked last fall to come back with a revised proposal, because an original $13 million estimate was too expensive, according to Town Manager John Eldridge.

After the walk-through on Feb. 25, Brillant presented a revised report and estimate for a proposed new building during a council workshop that followed.  

The 9,000-square-foot fire station at 21 Town Hall Place has two engine bays and another bay for ambulances. The new proposal includes an updated floor plan of around 24,000 square feet that is nearly 6,000 square feet smaller than the 30,000-square-foot building proposed last year.

The updated floor plan would include six engine bays, one less than the proposed floor plan last year and less bunk space than the original proposal. It also doesn’t include a museum that was part of last year’s proposal. 

A site hasn’t been chosen for the new station, but Brillant last year said the town was looking “in the Pleasant Street area.”

The estimate for the project is $10.6 million if the council adopts an ordinance for bonding without going to referendum. If the issue goes to referendum, the cost of the project would be closer to $11 million because of the time that will have passed until the June election.

“The longer we wait, the more we are going to pay,” Brillant said. “… I know money was the issue here and that is what the architect is trying to convey.”

The estimated cost of the project does not include land acquisition, which is estimated to be close to $2 million.

Eldridge said items dropped in the updated proposal can be added back if bids on the project come in lower than expected. If a new building is built, the current station could house the museum, Brillant noted.

Councilors who took the tour had some strong opinions about the current condition of the fire station.

“It really is hazardous and we have to figure something out sooner than later,” Wilson said. “These people are serving our community and they deserve better.”

The building has a laundry list of issues and is not accessible to people with disabilities. Ironically, it also has no fire protection system and has numerous physical deficiencies, according to a report from Brillant, Deputy Chief Jeff Emerson and Deputy Chief Donald Koslosky.

Brillant showed the councilors how narrow the walls of the engine bays are in relation to the parked trucks, with only a few inches between the wall and parked vehicles, leaving no room for error when backing in.

“These engines are only getting heavier and larger as they get more modern and the flooring and size of the current building just is not sufficient anymore,” Brillant said.

During the tour, some firefighters were finishing their dinner and joked that they “move to the other side of the room” when the trucks return, just in case the floor, which has been replaced three times, gives out.

“The firefighters’ kitchen is below all these unbelievably heavy vehicles,” Millett said. “We are even risking liability with this building … there’s a myriad of problems with that building and that’s why we really just need to move forward.”

That next step for councilors, according to Chairman John Perrault, is setting a public hearing at their March 4 meeting.

Brunswick Fire Chief Kenneth Brillant shows Town Councilor Kathy Wilson just how tight the space is between the top of the engines and the ceiling of the garage at Central Station during a public tour of the fire station on Feb 25.

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