Fire station work cost rocks selectmen

AMHERST – The cost to renovate and add a second story to the Central Fire Station came as a bit of a shock to selectmen last week, but they also agreed the project is necessary.

The $450,000 estimate to renovate the station came from Turnstone Corp. Three company representatives were at the board’s meeting on Monday, Jan. 16, to talk about the project.

The town has $187,000 for the project from two warrant articles, and it will have to find the balance from savings in the current year’s budget, Town Administrator Jim O’Mara said.

That is “a huge chunk of money,” Selectman Nate Jensen said.

But he added, “There’s no question we need to do it.”

Tom Grella, who was on the original fire station building committee in the late 1980s, when it was designed to accommodate a second floor, said they didn’t think it would take 29 years to complete the building.

Turnstone President Stacy Clark said she will work on getting rebates for LED lighting that would be used throughout the building. Appliances could be donated, project manager Tony DeCosta said.

The work includes the cost of bringing the first floor up to fire code, removing and replacing insulation, and tearing down the first-floor ceiling. The finished building would have eight bedrooms and two unisex bathrooms, a file room, a work room, a small fitness room, a kitchen-break room and energy-efficient windows.

Chairman Dwight Brew talked about the importance of having firefighters and EMS personnel able to rest between calls during emergencies when the crew needs to remain at the station.

The board will continue to talk about funding, and Turnstone will look into what part of the project it can delay if the town is short.

Work is scheduled to begin in mid-February, and the job should be complete in early June, Clark said.

The fire station renovation is considered the final step in joining the fire and EMS departments.

The town is also looking at a police station renovation project after the ambulance department moves out of that building and into the renovated fire station at the Amherst Street complex.

The original police station was built in 1980 and renovated in 1996, with police and EMS each occupying roughly 5,000 square feet, according the department’s strategic planning.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@cabinet.com.