AUGUSTA — The first fire station to be built in Augusta in 51 years is taking shape in the northern part of the city, where for the last few weeks crews have been pouring concrete around steel beams that have been dropped up to 60 feet underground.

The laying of that foundation has taken longer than expected, Fire Chief Roger Audette of the Augusta Fire Department said Tuesday afternoon. But assuming inclement weather doesn’t throw a wrench in other construction plans, Audette still thinks the project will be completed by Jan. 31.

Utility companies have already installed water, sewer and gas connections at the site on Leighton Road, Audette said. Next steps will include erecting a steel frame for the building and adding siding and roofing.

“We’re finishing up the concrete foundation, which has slowed us up a lot,” said Audette as he surveyed the Leighton Road site. “It’s safe to say we’re a couple weeks behind, just because of the labor required to pour the concrete.”

But without bad weather, Audette, who has also worked as a builder, said, “We don’t see any reason why we won’t meet” the Jan. 31 completion date.

That date can’t come soon enough, he added.

In 2008, a study by the Matrix Consulting Group recommended the department — which also includes ambulance units — build a new station in the Civic Center Drive area near Interstate 95. In the last four years, there has been a 61 percent increase in fire department calls to north Augusta, which is now home to a bustling shopping area, a hospital and other businesses, organizations and public agencies.

Many of those calls are for medical reasons, noted Audette, but also include responses to fire alarms and potential gas leaks.

“This is long overdue,” Audette said. “We haven’t had a new fire station built since, I think, early 1965.”

The new location will help the department respond more quickly to calls, Audette said.

The station will also be roomier and more strategically designed than the department’s cramped, 96-year-old Hartford Station headquarters in the city’s downtown — which it will not be replacing.

The new building will include separate bathrooms for men and women, an exercise area, a diesel exhaust system and an area for on-duty responders to stay that’s isolated from the vehicle bay. The station is expected to cost about $4 million.

Voters approved $3.6 million in bonds for the project in a November 2014 referendum.

However, in January city officials learned the clay soil under the station site may not be able to support the weight of the station and the water-laden firetrucks it will hold. In February city councilors unanimously approved spending an additional $500,000 to put steel pilings 60 feet down through the soil at the site into bedrock to support the weight of the station and vehicles it will hold.

But this isn’t the only upgrade the fire department has sought in recent years.

City councilors more recently decided to seek voter approval to borrow $6 million to renovate and expand Hartford Station. That question will appear on the November ballot.

Charles Eichacker — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @ceichacker


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