HALLOWELL — Most of the city’s leadership agrees that something must be done about Hallowell’s 186-year-old fire station. But there has yet to be a consensus about what is the best solution.

“I’d say it is smack in the middle of the priorities for the city to address in the coming year,” said Stefan Pakulski, Hallowell’s city manager. “The fire chief and members of the Fire Department would really like a clear decision made and action taken.”

The building includes a turn-of-the-century wooden tower, which leans east, that’s used to dry fire hoses. It’s one of only a couple towers of its kind left in New England, and the Hallowell Citizens’ Initiative Committee, formed in 2013, is hoping to raise enough money to preserve the historic building.

Sandra Stubbs, one of the group’s leaders, said the organization has about $40,000 in its coffers; but estimates predict it will cost nearly $500,000 to preserve the tower, add an elevator to meet Americans with Disabilities Act standards and restore the rest of the building. She would love to see the building converted into a museum.

Many problems exist in addition to the leaning tower and neglected rooms of the Second Street building, which was opened in 1829 as a town hall. The city’s firetrucks barely fit into the garage and the building just isn’t suited to house a modern fire department, Mayor Mark Walker said.

“There was a study done concluding that the fire station is not really suitable for modern fire equipment,” Walker said. “We’ve done our best. We’ve remodeled and upgraded it, but we can’t change its footprint.”

Several years ago, repairs were done to the station, and Fire Chief Michael Grant said the repairs would sustain the department for three to five years. Walker said that time is “just about up.” He plans to restart a Fire Services Committee to explore all options for the department.

“The committee will look at just what is our preference, and there are many options,” Walker said. The group will have to decide whether it makes sense to invest in a bond issue to build a fire station, but it would be hard to justify spending more than $600,000 to house a volunteer fire department, he said.

One of the solutions discussed internally by Walker, Pakulski, Grant and other city leaders is partnering with another local department, including those in Augusta, Farmingdale or Gardiner. Combining services with Augusta, which provides EMS service to the city, or another local community and using Hallowell as a substation would be the ideal solution for many, Walker said.

But not Gardiner Fire Chief Al Nelson, who said he has not discussed combining services with Hallowell with anyone.

“I think that partnering with communities is a good idea. However, it has to make sense for all involved, financially and operationally,” Nelson said. “I’m not sure that a partnership between Gardiner and Hallowell would make operation sense.”

Augusta Fire Chief Roger Audette said his department always is willing to discuss partnering with another community, but he too said there has been nothing formal with Hallowell.

“As with every issue or idea, some things pop up, and it’s usually always money,” Audette said. “We have plans to make significant investments and put more resources here, and anytime anybody does that, it’s a good time to look into combining services.”

Collaboration between departments has long been discussed by officials in Gardiner and Hallowell, going back a few years ago when Gardiner expressed interest to Hallowell and Farmingdale in creating a regional fire district.

Scott Morelli, Gardiner’s city manager, said nothing much resulted from those initial talks; but in the last year, the dialogue has continued with Hallowell officials to explore fire services and to schedule a meeting to further discuss the subject.

“That meeting will occur after the new year,” Morelli said. “Our council has expressed a great deal of support for looking to ways we can do even more to regionalize services, so it continues to be a goal of Gardiner’s.”

Walker and Pakulski said that putting off a decision, much like with the Water Street reconstruction project, just increases the cost when the project finally happens, so both hope to have a resolution in the coming months.

“We have to make a decision,” Walker said. “It’s a pretty high priority.”

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ