Gorham residents will get their first peek this weekend at the product of a $5 million renovation and expansion to their public safety complex on Main Street.

The transformed fire station and a new 10,000-square-foot police station will be unveiled during an open house Sunday from noon to 4 p.m.

“This is a vast improvement,” said police Chief Dan Jones, who joined the department a little more than a year ago.

The police and fire departments long shared a building, but the town identified the need for more space in 1999. Officials claimed the showers, sleeping areas, interview rooms, offices and storage space were not sufficient.

“The first time I sat down and really talked about it was 17 or 18 years ago,” said longtime Fire Chief Robert Lefebvre.

In 2013, town officials presented voters with a $6.3 million plan that called for renovating the former Little Falls School into a new headquarters. Disappointed with the price and the location, nearly three-quarters of voters said “No.” So in 2014, the town tried again, this time with a cheaper plan to renovate the existing building for the fire station and build the new police station next door. By a narrow margin – 3,588 to 3,490 – the question passed.

Among the improvements in the new buildings are more storage and work space for all employees. The police department added three interview rooms, a secure entrance and a secure room for evidence testing and storage.

“It had been repurposed so many times that all the rooms were also hallways,” Jones said of the old department. “If people had to get from one end of the building to another, they would have to walk through those rooms.”

The new fire station boasts two new bays, a safer cleaning station for contaminated gear and a 60-seat training room that doubles as an emergency operations center. That space was not previously available to the departments and was one of the priorities for a redesign, the chief said.

“Before there were a lot of places we were just sitting on top of each other,” Lefebvre said.

“It was difficult to have a lot of pride when someone came in both facilities,” he added. “Now, we feel like a professional organization.”

Gorham’s staff includes 24 police officers. The fire department has 14 full-timers, and the call team totals 170. The open house on Sunday will be a chance for the public to take tours of both departments, as well as watch demonstrations and the dedication of a new memorial.

“This facility will certainly serve the community for the next 25 years or better,” Lefebvre said. “It gives us the resources that we need.”

Ever since the police department moved into its new building in the spring, Jones said the work environment for officers has improved. In March 2015, a town-commissioned report cited claims of domestic violence and low morale among Gorham officers.

“Just the fact that it’s a lot easier for the officers to get their jobs done, morale seems great right now,” Jones said.

The public safety complex is located at 270 Main St.

Megan Doyle can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

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