Brunswick fire station cost estimate grows to $15M

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BRUNSWICK — The public will have a chance to comment and hear more about a proposed new Central Fire Station at a Town Council workshop Monday, Sept. 10.

Councilors scheduled the workshop after discussing a report from the Fire Station Task Force on Sept. 4.

The report included a preliminary floor plan and budget for the proposed $13 million, 30,000-square-foot building. Including land acquisition costs, the project would total $15 million, according to the report.

But according to a memo from Town Manager John Eldridge to the council, the town’s 2018-2019 Capital Improvement Plan estimated the total cost for the project would be about $9 million.

Although Councilor Jane Millett, a member of the Fire Station Task Force, said the CIP estimate was a “wild guess,” Eldridge said “a large design fee” and contingencies drove up the projected price.

“Do I think the number was low to begin with, yeah, probably it was a little bit low,” Eldridge said. “But I think just as much, the number that he’s coming in with at this point, with the level of contingencies, is high.”

The Central Fire Station at Town Hall Place is 99 years old, and plans to replace it have been in the town’s CIP for more than a decade. The Fire Department also operates out of Emerson Station at 284 Bath Road. 

A report from Fire Chief Ken Brillant, Deputy Chief Jeff Emerson, and Deputy Chief Donald Koslosky states the Central Fire Station is not accessible to people witih disabilities, has no fire protection system and the fire escape is not compliant with code.

The report states the building also has “a number of physical deficiencies,” including structural defects, and leaks in the tower and trim. The equipment bays in the building are too small for modern equipment, according to the report, which requires “new units to be designed specifically to fit through the doors.”

Eldridge on Monday said the proposed budget for the new station is “preliminary,” and set by an architect from Mitchell Associates Architects.

Bonds would be used to fund the project. Eldridge said the Town Charter allows councilors to adopt an ordinance for bonding without a referendum, but that would be one of the key things to decide moving forward.

The architect also met with Brillant over the course of three months to create a needs assessment, which is what was used to develop the preliminary floor plan.

The task force has been evaluating several sites around townfor the new fire station. Brillant said in an email Sept. 5 the sites the task force selected are “still confidential,” but they are “looking at the Pleasant Street corridor.”

Eldridge said Sept. 5 the committee identified “several possible configurations on Pleasant Street,” which will be shared with councilors at Monday’s workshop. 

He also said at the meeting that although the town knows “where the potential locations are,” it has “hit a snag” in the process.

“We don’t really have the ability to move forward absent either a commitment to the project in total, or commitment to the project in part for the acquisition of property,” he said. 

Millett said the group spent “a long time” considering sites for the station and evaluating the locations, accessibility, and response times.

Building a new fire station, she added, is overdue.

“This has been an issue in our town since the 1970s; this building is over 100 years old; it was built for horse and buggies; it’s time that we get going and do something about this,” Millett said. “I know this is a high price, but that’s where we’re at and had we done it 10 or 15 years ago (it) probably would have been a lot less expensive.”

Councilor David Watson, another member of the task force, also spoke about the hazards of having such an old station.

“Today when an engine leaves the central station it has been downsized a little bit, the mirrors have been moved in, and yet there’s still pieces of equipment from time to time that get cleaned off the truck,” he said. “Lord willing that piece of equipment isn’t needed on the scene.”

Councilors seemed to agree a new station is needed but differed on the high price tag.

Councilor Stephen Walker said he thinks the town should “trim” the project down to closer to the original $9 million estimate, and criticized some amenities included in the plan, such as a 60-person meeting room.

“I certainly cannot and will not disagree that we need a new central station and I was uncomfortable with the $9 million price tag, but when I saw 13 – no, I would never support that,” he said. 

Elizabeth Clemente can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or Follow Elizabeth on Twitter @epclemente

Brunswick Fire Chief Ken Brillant inside Central Fire Station in late 2016.

A workshop to discuss plans for a proposed new $13 million Central Fire Station will be held Sept. 10. The current station is 99 years old.