HALLOWELL — Members of the public are encouraged to weigh in on the city’s fire protection future at a meeting Wednesday night at City Hall.

Camden fire consultant Neil Courtney issued a report to the city in December outlining a range of options, with many pros and cons for Hallowell officials to consider.

In December, Mayor Charlotte Warren said that after the meeting city councilors will select the option they want to pursue. Then, Courtney will devise an implementation plan and should return a final report to the council in February, she said.

The options include building a joint department with or merging fully with another town, perhaps Farmingdale; keeping the Hallowell Fire Department; creating a public safety department housed in a new building; and contracting services to a larger town, perhaps Augusta.

Courtney’s report warns that while a full merger or interlocal agreement would yield the “highest and best use of limited and diminishing resources,” it may be idealistic, causing “angst among fire fighters with pending change of status quo” and loss of municipal autonomy.

Hallowell Fire Chief Mike Grant said building a new building to house both police and fire personnel makes the most sense, while the fire department expands mutual aid agreements with surrounding towns. Now, the city has agreements with Augusta and Farmingdale.

“We’re already joined at the hip with area departments, but the cost-sharing and administrative stuff is what everybody wants autonomy over,” he said. “It takes everybody wanting to do it.”

Grant said the city’s most realistic option would be to “bite the bullet and build a public safety building not just for us, but for the police.”

Now, the 13-member Hallowell Fire Department is housed in a Second Street station built in 1828 that officials say is in a state of disrepair. The Hallowell Police Department is based on the bottom floor of City Hall, off Winthrop Street.

According to a 2009 engineering report, the fire station has several areas where asbestos was used in piping and flooring. There are no showers and bay doors are manually operated. The building’s second floor is unused, ravaged by mold and caved-in ceilings. A wood addition on back of the building still shows damage from a 1932 fire.

Department Lt. Jeffrey Thompson said his preferred option would be a brand new station, but he realizes the city may go in a different direction.

“I’m not going to be selfish,” he said. “I’m going to go with what the forefathers of the city think is best for the residents of Hallowell.”

At a January meeting at City Hall, residents debated similar options. Cost estimates for a new station were also laid out. According to minutes, the cost of renovating the main brick part of the station was estimated at between $475,000 and $525,000, with a new station potentially costing anywhere from $500,000 to $720,000.

In July, the City Council voted to allow City Manager Michael Starn to negotiate a contract with Courtney, who was hired at $13,260 for his work.

Michael Shepherd — 621-5632

msheph[email protected]


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