HALLOWELL — Stevens Commons owner Matt Morrill donated a 0.67-acre parcel of land to the city of Hallowell on Monday to be used as the site of the city’s new fire station.

The donation is the third significant gift to the city since March. An anonymous donor pledged up to $1 million to pay for building the fire station at Stevens Commons, and former councilor Joan Sturmthal gave $100,000 in support of infrastructure and road work at the planned mixed-use development off Winthrop Street.

“We are living in blessed times to have our city receive over a million dollars,” Mayor Mark Walker told the council during its meeting Monday. “I believe this is a win, win, win for the city and its citizens, for Stevens Commons and the new fire station and our own Hallowell Fire Department.”

Since buying the property from the state in April 2016, Morrill has stressed the importance of having a public-private partnership. The city gave Morrill a forgivable $238,000 loan and Hallowell voters approved a $2.36 million bond package that included $600,000 for Stevens Commons infrastructure improvements, which will begin later this summer.

Morrill said he has been developing a partnership with the City Council since before he purchased the property, and he said this donation allows for the timely construction of the fire station and is the next logical step in fulfilling the mutual interest in seeing revitalization on the campus.

“We are so thrilled to play a small part in such a generous gift to the city and can’t wait to see how the design of the new fire station harmonizes with the historic campus,” Morrill said.

The fire station will be built at the top of the campus where the Farwell Building now stands. During Monday’s council meeting, the council approved architect Rosie Curtis and general contractor Bruce Laukka, Inc. as the designer and builder of the structure, respectively. Curtis said she hopes to present the city with preliminary designs soon and stressed the need for cooperation because of the tight schedule.

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.

Walker, the council and Rudy agreed that the goal was for the fire station to be completed and the Hallowell Fire Department relocated to its new home before the start of the Water Street reconstruction project in April 2018. Curtis said the team needs to move expeditiously in order to break ground Sept. 18.

“We request that everyone be very understanding of our compacted schedule and to help us with that,” Curtis said.

The city will pay for the cost of demolishing the Farwell Building, and Rudy said he’s received an estimate of about $20,000 for the work. He said two environmental impact studies have been completed on the site, showing no significant problems that would hinder the plan to raze the building and build the fire station.

“We are very excited about the opportunities that Mr. Morrill’s donation creates for the Hallowell Fire Department and how this gift springboards construction,” Rudy said. “This is a great moment in Hallowell history and heralds the construction of a new building that we hope will become a vibrant community center for many generations, similar to the Second Street fire station and City Hall.”

Not everybody was happy with Morrill’s donation.

Patricia Connors, who last year sent a postcard to everyone in Hallowell criticizing Morrill’s plan, commitment, motives and financial situation, said the city has given enough to Morrill.

She passed around a paper at the council meeting titled “Generosity Abused: A Marriage of Our Public Tax Money to Private Greed” that said Eliza Clark Lowell gave money to Hallowell in the late 1890s “without strings attached.” Connors wrote that Clark Lowell could be “spinning in her grave at this reversal of generosity” and Stevens Commons is the “gift that will keep on taking.” Clark Lowell, according to Hubbard Free Library, was a direct descendant of Deacon Pease Clark, the first settler in what is now Hallowell. She donated $10,000 for an addition to the library in 1897 and $20,000 for a new City Hall a year later.

Connors’ paper also questioned how much the city would pay for the property; she wasn’t aware that Morrill was donating the land. But Connors hasn’t given any indication that she’s going to change some of the misleading or incorrect language in her flyer.

Morrill declined to comment on Connors’ latest attempt to tear down his plan.

Despite her objection, the fire station construction plan will move forward. In the next few weeks, Curtis and the general contractor will continue to meet with Fire Chief Jim Owens, members of the Fire Department and city officials to discuss the preliminary design.

The council plans to vote on whether to approve the final design during its Aug. 7 meeting. There is a special council meeting scheduled for July 19 before the Planning Board meets, and it’s possible some preliminary drawings will be unveiled at that meeting.

Owens said the department is excited to be a part of the process and that he can’t wait to see the final plan.

“It’s going great,” he said with a smile during a break in the council meeting, “and it’s going to be great.”

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.

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ

filed under:

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.