HALLOWELL — Engineers could be hired to draft renovation plans for the city’s historic fire station by fall after private fundraisers reached their first milestone in an effort to save the building’s leaning tower.

The Second Street building, which opened in 1829 as a town hall, has been a political issue that has loomed over Hallowell for decades. The fire chief has said the conversation about its history has distracted from his volunteer department’s need for a new station, but after years of study, there are no plans to relocate or share regional fire services.

On Monday, the City Council voted to use $22,000 in private money to buy engineering plans for the building. That money was raised by the Hallowell Citizens’ Initiative Committee, formed in 2013 to work to preserve the building — especially the tower, which leans east and was added around the turn of the 20th century to dry fire hoses. It’s one of only a few such towers left in New England.

The engineering plans aren’t the first investment in the Second Street building. In 2012, councilors authorized spending $30,000 to renovate a meeting room and apartment on the building’s second floor. An engineering firm looked at the building’s structural condition for a 2009 report, which found that the wooden addition was in “poor condition” largely because of a settling foundation.

That report, from E.S. Coffin Engineering and Surveying in Chelsea, said the tower would need extensive renovation to ensure future stability and said razing it should be considered because of the cost. But it’s the focal point for the committee, whose ultimate goal is to raise about $400,000 to renovate the wooden addition, add an elevator and salvage rooms that have been neglected.

“It’ll take a while, but I expect we’ll be successful,” said Robert Stubbs, a committee member, former mayor and former city councilor.

The committee has raised nearly $37,000 so far, and it’s in a city account under council control. Stubbs said Coffin has given the group a quote of roughly $22,000 for the engineering plans, which would give fundraisers a better idea of what renovations would cost. However, City Manager Michael Starn said he’ll also ask other firms for estimates before inking a deal for plans, which he expects to do this fall.

However, Fire Chief Michael Grant has been cool to the focus on the building’s history. A 2011 report from a fire services consultant said the building lacks many modern features, with a low ceiling forcing the city to buy shorter trucks to get them to fit under the department’s manually operated bay doors.

The city has discussed building a joint fire station with Farmingdale, but those talks have stalled in recent years, and Grant said the department’s future should be a main conversation topic.

“Obviously, they’re very adamant about seeing this project through,” he said of the committee. “I just wish folks were as adamant about getting us a new home.”

Council President Phillip Lindley agreed with Grant, saying the long-term future for Hallowell fire services must be on “a front burner.” Still, he voted for the expenditure, calling it “kind of a win-win” for the city, which gets plans without spending taxpayer money.

“Whether that stays as a fire station or is made into some other type of public building, something has to be done with that wooden addition,” Lindley said.

Michael Shepherd — 370-7652

[email protected]

Twitter: @mikeshepherdme


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