The $1 million gift from an anonymous donor to pay for building a fire station in Hallowell is expected to increase, but city officials say it’s too soon to know by how much.

“The details aren’t finalized yet,” Mayor Mark Walker said Tuesday.

“The city manager has discussed this with the attorney representing the donor,” Walker said. The donor has increased the gift to meet the design specifications, some of which were at the donor’s request.

At Monday’s meeting, the Hallowell City Council heard a presentation on preliminary building elevations, which are designed to complement the buildings that face it in Stevens Commons and suit the Winthrop Street neighborhood just beyond the property of the former Stevens School.

The new building is expected to be big enough for the department to grow into over time as firetrucks become bigger, and big enough to include space for the community.

“You could see how excited the fire chief and the firefighters are,” Walker said. “Morale has not been higher (in the department).”

At the same time, city officials are planning renovation at the city’s existing fire station on Second Street. The station, more than 185 years old, is unsuitable for a modern fire department or its firefighters and equipment. The city has been working for more than a year to figure out the future of its fire protection services.

City officials issued a request for proposals Monday to find a contractor who can enhance the historic building’s safety and accessibility. The scope of work includes foundation work, repairing the wooden section of the building, and improvements that include handicapped-accessible restrooms and stairwells and a pad for a wheelchair-accessible elevator. Officials also anticipate repairs to the brick areas of the building.

The deadline for proposals is 4 p.m. Aug. 25.

Hallowell officials don’t know yet what will happen with the existing fire hall after the department moves to its new home, but the work is needed to keep the building safe in the meantime.

“That’s the question I put forward at the meeting,” said Ward 3 City Councilor Kara Walker, who is not related to Mayor Mark Walker. “There’s a line in the RFP that says there are some things we don’t know because we don’t know the fate of the building.”

“Step one is to get the process over,” Kara Walker said. “The shoring up of the building is necessary.”

Mayor Mark Walker said he had spoken to some city councilors before and after Monday’s meeting about a path forward for determining the future use of the building.

He expects that the city’s Property Committee, which has oversight over city buildings, and perhaps three residents will make up a task force to decide the future use.

“We obviously don’t feel any rush, because the Fire Department will be using the building through next April,” Mark Walker said.

One aspect of timing is crucial.

Work is expected to get underway on the new fire station in September, with a planned occupancy date at the new station of April 1, at least for the trucks.

That date is significant, Hallowell Fire Chief James Owens said, because that’s when the new traffic patterns are expected to take effect to accommodate the reconstruction of Water Street. Owens said Second Street will become one way for traffic heading south.

“All of that traffic that comes out of Augusta will be on Second Street, and there is limited parking,” he said.

Firetrucks leaving the station after April 1 would be forced to turn left, and that would add to response times, he said.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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