HALLOWELL — Another month has passed, but it appears that Hallowell is inching closer to a resolution on the future of the city’s fire protection services.

The Fire Services Committee met Monday at City Hall and deliberated the merits of a number of scenarios for the city’s fire protection future, including building a new public safety facility at Stevens Commons or disbanding the volunteer Hallowell Fire Department and contracting with the City of Augusta’s full-time unit.

Representatives from Hallowell and Farmingdale’s fire department and elected officials from both, along with members of the public, attended the meeting, which was rescheduled from Sept. 30.

Hallowell Fire Chief Mike Grant proposed a move into a new public safety building at the Stevens Commons campus without a per diem fire department. That plan would cost about $3.7 million over 10 years and would add $141.14 in annual tax per $182,000 of valuation.

Stevens Commons developer Matt Morrill has offered to convert part of the campus’ Erskine Building into a public safety department, including fire, police and emergency management, while adding an attached substation.

“I’m not convinced we need a per diem department,” Grant said. “I don’t share the same angst as some others have about our response time.”

City officials estimated that constructing a new public safety building would cost about $1.6 million, but Grant thinks that number can be drastically reduced. He said they could do a lot of the interior work themselves, thus saving a significant amount of money for the city.

“I think it’d be a win-win for everybody,” Grant said. “It makes sense to invest in our existing fire department.”

Committee chairman Bob Duplessie questioned why it took Grant so long to come forward with this proposal. Grant and Duplessie engaged in a heated back-and-forth where Grant said Duplessie was rooting against the Hallowell fire department rather than rooting for them.

At the end of August, City Manager Nate Rudy presented several plans to the committee including the Augusta plan and the public safety plan, sharing the Farmingdale station but operating as a separate department while building a substation in Hallowell at Stevens Commons or reconstructing the Second Street station leaving the department as is.

Grant thought that sharing a space at Farmingdale’s station wasn’t the worst idea, but he noted that the Farmingdale station is almost three miles from Hallowell’s town center.

Committee members debated the proposals during August’s meeting but opted to delay making a final decision. It appeared that the plan to rebuild the current station, which is more than 180 years old and not suited for a modern fire department, was not an option.

Rudy estimated the cost to rebuild that station to be more than $600,000, a number he said the city couldn’t afford, especially with the ongoing Stevens Commons redevelopment and upcoming Water Street reconstruction.

Augusta Fire Chief Roger Audette said during August’s meeting that the city would hire two new firefighters if an agreement is reached with Hallowell. Augusta’s department currently has 50 full-time firefighters, and there would be 12 firefighters on duty around the clock. Right now, there are 12 on duty during the day and 10 on duty at night.

Hallowell receives mutual aid from Augusta in the event of a structure fire or other severe emergency situation, so it would seem redundant to pay Augusta for services Hallowell already receives.

During the last meeting, Audette, who did not attend Monday, said all personnel would be stationed at Augusta’s Hartford station, which is less than two miles from the Hallowell city line. There would be no firefighters stationed in Hallowell under an agreement with Augusta.

Rudy estimated that contracting with Augusta would cost about $2 million over 10 years. It would add $117.99 in property tax per year based on a $182,000 home value.

Under the Farmingdale plan, Hallowell would lease two bays in the Maine Avenue station and would operate its department autonomously. Farmingdale is expected to ask the town for the funds to build a new fire station at an as yet undecided location during the 2017 Town Meeting in June.

By far the most expensive plans are the ones that include a 24/7 per diem department.

Building a new public safety facility at Stevens Commons with a 24/7 per diem department would cost more than $7.2 million over 10 years, including about $1.6 million for the building itself. That plan would add $412.97 in property tax per year. A per diem fire department that shares Farmingdale’s station would cost about $3.7 million over 10 years and would add $362.82 in property tax annually.

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

Kennebec Journal & Morning Sentinel news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.