Portland Fire Dept. expects to replace Stevens Avenue station

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PORTLAND — The countdown has not started, but both City Manager Jon Jennings and Fire Chief Keith Gautreau said the Rosemont fire station’s days are numbered.

“The first station we will look hard at replacing will be Stevens Avenue,” Gautreau said Jan. 29, several weeks after Jennings told the City Council Finance Committee the replacement was likely.

Built in 1953, the station at 212 Stevens Ave. is one of five recommended for replacement in an October 2017 assessment of department operations and facilities by Facets Consulting of Flagstaff, Arizona.

“This station’s size, small site, age, environmental and code compliance issues make it a good candidate for replacement,” the report concluded.

The North Deering station at 386 Allen Ave., closed since a September 2017 kitchen fire, was also on the Facets list. Work on the renovated and expanded fire station is scheduled to be finished April 29, Gautreau said.

There is no determination on Central station at 380 Congress, built in 1925.

Though Gautreau and city staff have used the Facets report as a template, the chief said he does not think stations on Ocean Avenue or Forest Avenue in Riverton need the recommended full replacement.

Because the report also said city fire stations are well located, the city would like to keep the Rosemont station on or near its current site.

There is no cost estimate for replacing the Rosemont station. The Allen Avenue repairs and expansion costs $1 million. Repair estimates for the Cash Corner fire station in South Portland are $1.7 million, so Gautreau has a starting point.

“We would expect to be working in millions for replacing the station,” he said.

Gautreau said the assistance of Public Buildings/Waterfront Director Kathy Alves, who handled the facilities assessments and Allen Avenue work, has been valuable. 

“I never realized the amount of complete renovations,” he said of the Allen Avenue station. “The electrical system, panels, plumbing; it was a complete gut job.”

The added expertise, which has included visits to neighboring departments, was not a part of department operations in the past, Gautreau added.

“We’d promote a chief and say ‘tag, you’re it,’ you have facilities,” he said.

The Fire Department facility and equipment needs are being met to a larger degree this year through the proposed $21 million capital improvements plan, but Gautreau said he is already looking for other future funding sources. 

Should Jennings decide next year to present a CIP where new debt matches retiring debt, it would be $10 million.

The proposed $21 million capital improvements plan, expected to face a Feb. 20 council vote, allocates $300,000 for repairs at fire stations. That entails repairing the floor slab at Munjoy Hill, the first phase of remediating lead paint and asbestos at Central station, and electrical upgrades throughout the city.

Another $160,000 is allocated to link the Bramhall station on Congress Street to a water line so a sprinkler system can be installed.

“I realize I can’t just keep asking for CIP,” Gautreau said.

The chief testified last month in Augusta in favor of a $25 million bond proposed by Rep. Michael Brennan, D-Portland, to fund future fire station construction. The bill is in front of the Legislature’s Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee.

The department will continue to apply for U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency Assistance to Firefighters grants for apparatus and the extractors used to clean gear after calls.

David Harry can be reached at 780-9092 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Portland City Manager Jon Jennings and Fire Chief Keith Gautreau agree with a 2017 report that concludes the Rosemont Fire Station on Stevens Avenue needs to be replaced.

Portland Fire Chief Keith Gautreau said Jan. 29 that the department is moving forward on improving its stations and equipment.

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Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.