BRUNSWICK FIREFIGHTER STEVE LUNN drives a fire engine out of a central fire station bay door on Wednesday, with only a couple inches of clearance. DARCIE MOORE / THE TIMES RECORD

BRUNSWICK FIREFIGHTER STEVE LUNN drives a fire engine out of a central fire station bay door on Wednesday, with only a couple inches of clearance. DARCIE MOORE / THE TIMES RECORD

BRUNSWICK

Brunswick’s central fire station is about to turn 100, and its age — and deficiencies — are showing. While most town officials agree it needs to be replaced, an estimated $13 million price tag has some town officials balking.

Ambulances and fire trucks have to be customized in order to fit through the station’s bay doors. Water is leaking through the building’s floors. The structure doesn’t even have a sprinkler system.

“It’s outlived its usefulness,” Brunswick fire Chief Ken Brillant said.

Constructed around 1919 to house horse-drawn firefighting equipment, the building is not handicapped accessible, is not code compliant and lacks a fire protection system or outside fire escape, according to a memo Brillant drafted for the town council.

The station that houses five bays with room for eight vehicles is located at Town Hall Place, in the heart of Brunswick’s busy downtown.

According to Brillant, there are defects and leaks in the hose tower and trim, the parapet wall on the front of the station has large holes and the bay floor has cracks allowing water to leak into the basement that houses the kitchen.

DARCIE MOORE / THE TIMES RECORD

DARCIE MOORE / THE TIMES RECORD

The apparatus bay floor was replaced in 1963, 1977 and in 1994. A temporary cap was installed to stabilize and weatherproof the parapet in 2015. Previously there were chunks of concrete falling from the structure, and just how expensive a full repair would be is an unknown.

On Wednesday, Brillant pointed to an uneven area of the floor breaking up where water is seeping in, damaging the concrete and rebar within. It’s unknown how deep the problem goes.

You can patch it, Brillant said, but it’s not inexpensive and the problem is not going away. An engineer has determined the floor is safe for now.

The building is also too small for most modern fire trucks. The fire department has a new engine coming that had to be custom built to fit inside the central station.

“If you can’t go taller to put more water on the truck, then you have to go longer. That becomes a problem, too,” Brillant said. “Ten inches taller would be huge when you talk about compartment space and water.”

Brillant picked up a broken ambulance mirror that was damaged while the vehicle was backed into one of the bay doors, always a tight fit. It’s not an uncommon occurrence. Firefighters have had to take off mirrors, cut an inch off and reattach them.

The tower truck purchased in 2006 has to be housed at Emerson Station in east Brunswick where firefighters more often need to take it to calls, creating more wear and tear on the truck.

‘Time to bite the bullet’

Town Manager John Eldridge told the council Tuesday there are many contingencies included in that preliminary $13 million budget.

Acquiring the land to build a new central station could cost another $2 million. The council only budgeted $9 million in total for the project.

“We spent a long time considering sites and evaluating them as to their location, their accessibility and their response times to various parts of town,” said Councilor Jane Millett, who served on the fire station task force. “This has been an issue in our town since the 1970s.… It’s time that we get going and do something about this.

“I know this is a high price but that’s where we’re at and had we done it 15 or 20 years ago, it probably would have been a lot less expensive,” she added. “So it’s time to bite the bullet and move on for this project. It’s been very carefully considered. Land acquisition is going to be a big part of it but I think the town manager is prepared to move forward on that if he gets the council’s approval.”

While no councilors disputed the need for a new fire station, some certainly hesitated at the $13 million price tag.

“I certainly cannot and will not disagree that we need a new central station, and I was uncomfortable with the $9 million price tag,” said Councilor Steve Walker. “When I saw 13 — no. I would never support that.”

He encouraged the council to trim the budget, “and maybe some of these elements could go. Even though they look fantastic on paper, I’m not sure if they’re vital to the operation of fire safety.”

Millett argued features like the training room and specialized hazardous material decontamination rooms are needed.

Eminent domain?

Eldridge, in an email, stated that all the properties under consideration for a potential fire station, including a preferred site, are along Pleasant Street. The town has had preliminary conversations with the property owners there.

“We would prefer a negotiated sale to an eminent domain proceeding, but the law clearly allows for that possibility,” he wrote, “so we will discuss the procedure with the council. The preference is always to reach a negotiated agreement.”

The council will hear more details about the proposed station at a Monday workshop at 6:30 p.m. They’ll meet behind closed doors at 6 p.m. to go over the land acquisition issues.

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