OAKLAND — The facilities committee voted unanimously Thursday afternoon to move forward with a preliminary plan from Fire Chief David Coughlin that laid out the necessary components for a new fire station.

The committee, which last year finished carrying out a plan to build a new police station, chose to tackle the fire station because it is the most critical need. The current station, built in 1955, would need so much renovation that the committee decided to build a station from scratch instead.

Messalonskee Hydro donated a lot on Fairfield Street to the town for the station. The Town Council has accepted the donation, and the committee is moving forward with a plan to survey the lot.

Coughlin’s plan, along with the survey work, will go to Brian Duffy, a consultant architect at Penelope Daborn Limited in Falmouth, who will create a more detailed design that will help the committee do a cost analysis.

The committee hopes to bring a recommendation to the council by the spring so it can hold public hearings over the summer and place a referendum question for the project on the November 2018 ballot.

Coughlin laid out four main areas necessary for the Fire Department, either now or in the future, as the town grows and the department’s role changes. The total estimated area, without ancillary space, is 11,500 square feet. The flow of the design would be similar to that of the New Gloucester Fire Department’s station, which is one of three stations the committee visited in the earlier stages of its planning process.

The first area, for administration, would need an estimated 2,250 square feet. It would encompass the chief’s office, a walk-in emergency services area, storage, a stand-by room and a lobby.

Providing walk-in spaces for emergency assessments and services is a rising national trend in fire departments, Coughlin said.

The department now gets walk-ins for concerns ranging from people having allergic reactions to those who want their blood pressure checked.

“I’ve had people come in who think they’re having a heart attack,” Coughlin said. He will go out to get someone in the ambulance, “and when I come back in they’re lying on the floor in my office.”

A walk-in area would provide a more private and comfortable space for people in those situations.

The administrative area also would include the code enforcement officer’s office, moving the officer from the Town Office. This would make the code department more accessible, as it’s now on the second floor of the Town Office, and would allow for greater collaboration between the officer and firefighters.

Coughlin estimated that the department will need five firetruck bays, which are 14 feet by 14 feet, and possibly a sixth, shorter bay for a rescue truck. The bays would face Fairfield Street.

This area, which he estimated will be about 6,600 square feet, would include rooms for breathing gear and tools and a bathroom.

Coughlin also included a multi-purpose room for training, disaster planning, meetings and functions. It would be similar to the Cascade Room in the police station, but larger.

“The town does not have anything for disaster-related events,” he said, referencing the weather changes that have happened in recent years. “We don’t have supplies. The town doesn’t have anything like that. It just seems to be where things are going. … While we’re looking to upgrade our facilities, this is maybe the time to look at these things.”

The room, estimated at 2,000 square feet, would include access to the kitchen and storage.

While committee members said a room for disasters was a good idea, they also said that town entities should work together to provide more space. For example, school spaces are often used in times of disaster for shelter.

“Fifty years from now when we’re not here anymore, we don’t know what the size of Oakland is going to be anymore,” Town Manager Gary Bowman said. “But I can guarantee it’s still going to be here, and I can guarantee it’s probably going to be bigger than it is now.”

More meeting space also would be welcome, Bowman said, as the Cascade Room is often double-booked now.

The final area would be residential space, which would include a day room, sleeping quarters and a bathroom at 750 square feet. While there are no 24-hour staff members in the Oakland Fire Department now, Coughlin said they took the department’s future into consideration.

As current volunteers age and younger generations don’t join, often because of the long training hours involved with firefighting, the town might have to switch from a per diem and volunteer staff to a full-time staff.

“It’s not a huge space requirement, but it’s something we need to consider for a facility we’re planning to build to last for the next 50 to 100 years,” Coughlin said.

There is also a technical college program in Portland and Bangor that lets students live at the fire station in exchange for answering calls and working as interns. If the program expanded into central Maine, such a space would allow Oakland to participate.

Madeline St. Amour — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @madelinestamour

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