A city working group will recommend that the City Council accept a proposal from the Curtis/Laukka group to design and build the city’s new fire station, thus meeting a deadline set by the anonymous donor who pledged up to $1 million for the station provided several conditions were met, City Manager Nate Rudy said this week.

Architect Rosie Curtis and Bruce Laukka Inc. will now spend the next few months designing the station, which will be built at Stevens Commons off Winthrop Street, as specified by the donor. The proposal has a total design cost of $77,770, which includes more than $36,000 for the architect and the remaining costs for several different engineers.

According to their proposal, the conceptual design process will take three weeks, followed by four weeks to prepare construction drawings. The conceptual design process started June 21 and the organization will begin construction drawings July 11.

There is a plan to have a public informational meeting in late July or early August, before the council votes Aug. 8 on whether to approve the design. Construction would start Sept. 11, with a ribbon cutting ceremony set for June 1, 2018.

Rudy hopes the final cost of the fire station stays under the $1 million pledged by the anonymous donor. He said he’s having discussions with Fire Chief Jim Owens about the design and soon will have to make a list of priorities.

“We have to decide what’s a must-have, what’s a ‘would be nice to have’ and what are some things we’d like but don’t need,” Rudy said. Hallowell has a volunteer Fire Department, so there are some things a full-time department needs that the Hallowell department can do without, such as living quarters, which would keep the cost down, he said.

Last month, the city announced an agreement with Stevens Commons developer Matt Morrill to build the station where the Falwell Building now stands, behind the Stevens Building on Coos Lane.

The city’s plan calls for construction of an approximately 5,000-to-6,000-square-foot station on city-owned land at Stevens Commons, and use of Hallowell granite would be welcomed.

Rudy said the city considered several approaches to designing and building the station, but after consulting with Morrill, the city attorney and other experts, he decided to issue the request for firms that can design and build the station.

The work needs to be done at a “strident pace,” Rudy said, to meet the donor’s eagerness to see the project started and to meet the city’s goal of relocating the Fire Department from its current 186-year-old station on Second Street to the new location before the Water Street reconstruction project begins next year.

In late March, an anonymous donor pledged up to $1 million for a new fire station, but the gift was contingent on the station being built at Stevens Commons. Additional conditions were attached to the donation that Hallowell has satisfied, including coming to an agreement with Morrill.

Owens said the city’s current station has historic appeal but lacks the conveniences needed by a modern department. He cited the height of the doors, the weight restrictions on the floor and lack of other amenities as the station’s biggest drawbacks.

“The new station should include training and administrative space, which will include space for community functions, blood drives, art displays (and more),” Owens said. “The members of the Fire Department are excited about increasing our level of contact with the public, and we will open our new home to all and be gracious hosts.”

Bruce Laukka Inc. has more than 35 years of experience in municipal building construction. The company built fire stations in Hope and Damariscotta, the Waldo County YMCA in Belfast and the Searsmont Community Center.

Hallowell’s Fire Department and its fire services future have been under the microscope over the past 15 months. The Fire Services Committee spent more than a year researching what the best option would be and made a recommendation to the council to contract for fire services with the Augusta Fire Department. However, the council unanimously voted instead to lease space in an unbuilt station in Farmingdale.

A petition circulated by Hallowell resident and Augusta city attorney Stephen Langsdorf called the council’s decision into question and forced councilors to re-examine their choice. The choice to rescind the Farmingdale decision was an easy one after the anonymous pledge was announced.

Former Hallowell Fire Chief Mike Grant last year proposed building a fire station next to the Erskine Building in the center of the Stevens Commons campus. That proposal was part of a multi-phase plan that would have turned the Erskine Building into a public safety facility and community center.

Grant thought it was important to keep the Fire Department within the city limits, and over time, there was more and more public support for Hallowell having its own department.

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

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Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ