The Winthrop Town Council hasn’t decided if it will approve the construction of a new fire station on U.S. Route 202, but if it does, the Winthrop Fire Department is slated to receive $450,000 in grant funding for the project over the next three years.

That’s buoyed Winthrop Fire Chief Dan Brooks, who has been paying close attention to engineering work currently underway at the location where the new station would be built. If the council green lights the project for the 2017-2018 year, Brooks explained, it would unlock that large sum of money.

“We did receive this huge donation that made this station feasible,” Brooks said. “It’s kind of a one-time chance. That has put a little pep in our step as we make sure to keep this project alive and not lose funding in future.”

The council, which received an update about the fire station project from Brooks at its Monday night meeting, probably won’t make any final decisions about the project until at least the winter, when it begins putting together next year’s budget.

In the budget it approved last spring, the council declined to approve a $127,000 down payment on a roughly $2.2. million fire station, which has been under discussion for almost a decade, but set aside the same amount for design and construction work for the station. That work is now underway at a town-owned lot on U.S. Route 202, next to the former Carleton Woolen Mills building, which is the department’s preference for a new site.

That amount, $127,000, was equal to the annual payments the town had been making on an unrelated 10-year loan, which was repaid last year. Because that $127,000 was freed up, Brooks has argued the project would not increase the town budget.

So far, Brooks said, about $30,000 has been spent. The engineering work has included test borings that showed the ledge underneath the ground “is good to build on,” Brooks said.

Town Manager Peter Nielson did not immediately return a call for comment.

The Augusta Fire Department is currently building a station in the northern part of the city. Because of excessive amounts of clay on the Leighton Road site, the project has included the construction of steel pilings, some of which go 60 feet underground.

Brooks’ goal, he said, is to have enough planning work completed that bids could be sought for the Winthrop project if the council chooses to do so.

“We believe that by end of this calendar year, November, December, we would have things ready to go out to bid, if that’s the council’s wishes,” Brooks said. Council members asked Brooks to eventually come back to them with “firmer plans and numbers,” he said, “but at some point, you don’t get a real number until somebody says I’ll build it for you.”

To help fund the project, Brooks has reached out to private foundations. One organization has issued a $150,000 grant to the fire department and pledged two more grants in the same amount, but all three are contingent on the town approving the construction project, Brooks said.

Brooks declined to identify the organization that wrote the grant.

If received, the funds would help the department include separate gym and training areas in the new station, a proposal that has been unpopular with some Winthrop taxpayers in the past, Brooks said. The grant funds would also help the department add other health and safety measures, including an exhaust system and a place to store firefighting gear so it isn’t exposed to fumes.

The new station would replace the nearly 70-year-old station the department currently uses on Main Street. Parking is limited there, and traffic has to be blocked when trucks exit and enter, Brooks has said. Built in 1947, its floor is also not very strong.

Last spring, Brooks said that the department had 25 current members and three junior firefighters. Brooks, whose day job is in Augusta, said all the firefighters are volunteers and that he gets a stipend for his work as chief.

In the 2015 fiscal year, the department was called to service 156 times for incidents including traffic accidents (32), structure fires (6), grass fires (9), vehicle fires (4) and alarms (37), according to the town report.

A year ago, the council also approved $7,000 for preliminary design work for the new station. As planned, the new firehouse would be 9,773 square feet. The town bought the land several years ago with a fire station in mind.

Charles Eichacker — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @ceichacker


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