AUGUSTA — The City Council on Thursday will consider whether to ask voters in November to approve a plan to borrow $6 million for improvements to the city’s 96-year-old central fire station.

The long-planned project would seek to address multiple problems at Hartford Station, from which firefighters and emergency medical services workers respond to about 60 percent of the calls for those services in Augusta.

The brick building’s problems, officials say, include garage bays so narrow that newer firetrucks won’t fit into them; a structurally deficient floor that can’t support the weight of firetrucks; a lack of space for training, female sleeping quarters, decontaminating equipment and clothing, and access for people with disabilities.

The city also needs to consider the changing role of firefighters — with the addition of ambulance calls — since the station was built in 1920, officials said.

Deputy Fire Chief David Groder noted all the city’s fire stations were built before responding to EMS calls with ambulances and other rescue vehicles was part of the Fire Department’s role. Now, he said, EMS calls make up about 80 percent of the 5,000 calls a year the department gets seeking help.

The building at the head of Rines Hill, above the south end of the city’s downtown, would be expanded on the east side of the site, onto land already owned by the city. Also, officials said, it probably would require the discontinuance of the short section of Gage Street that now provides access from just off Memorial Bridge to Water Street.

The city’s largest, heaviest firetrucks would be kept in the addition, in two large drive-through bays and two smaller back-in bays; while the existing four smaller bays would be used to park ambulances, pickup trucks and other lighter, smaller pieces of equipment.

A $4 million fire station is under construction at the intersection of Leighton Road and Anthony Avenue to serve the north Augusta area. Hartford is expected to remain the city’s main fire station after construction of the new station is complete.

The city already has at least two firetrucks — an engine and a ladder truck — that can’t be kept at Hartford because they’re too big and heavy. The trucks now are kept at the Western Avenue station, and the city in January expects to take delivery of a new multipurpose ladder firetruck, which also won’t fit inside Hartford.

Officials said the station is in an ideal location, on top of a hill overlooking the city it was built to protect. A 2008 Matrix Consulting Group study concluded Hartford Station is ideally located to be the city’s central fire station.

“This is the best site. We’re able to go left, right, or straight up Green Street, and hit all the neighborhoods,” Groder said. “It was put there for a reason.”

Thursday, in a meeting beginning at 7 p.m. in council chambers at Augusta City Center, councilors are scheduled to vote, in an agenda item sponsored by all council members, on whether to send the proposal to bond $6 million to renovate and roughly double the size of the station to voters in a citywide referendum. Councilors expressed support for it at their most recent meeting.

“Hartford Station has served us well,” Ward 3 Councilor Patrick Paradis said. “It met the necessities of 1920. But now it’s totally different.” He said EMS calls weren’t even part of what firefighters responded to from Hartford Station over its first several decades.

City Manager William Bridgeo said if councilors approve the proposal, it could go to voters in the Nov. 8 general election. If approved by residents, it could go out to bid in the summer and be ready to open by the fall of 2018.

City officials have been aware of the need to upgrade the station for years, and they have designated tax revenue to be collected in multiple Tax Increment Financing districts in the city to help pay for fire station improvements. Ralph St. Pierre, finance director and assistant city manager, said the project would be funded primarily from a TIF collecting revenue from taxes on natural gas pipelines installed in the city in recent years. He said those TIFs are projected to bring in enough money to pay the cost of debt for the fire station, and still have money in them for other projects. Thus, he said, it would have no impact on property taxes.

Councilors also are scheduled to:

• Hear a presentation from Paul Potvin regarding Capital Area Recreation Association,

• Consider rezoning parcels of land off Riverside Drive,

• Consider authorizing Bridgeo to apply for and accept grant funding of $17,555 from the state Bureau of Highway Safety’s 2017 Distracted Driving Enforcement Program, and

• Consider allowing the transfer of $686.50 to the Augusta Police Department, funds seized in a criminal investigation.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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