HALLOWELL — A newly created task force is hosting a public meeting Wednesday to solicit ideas for what the city should do with two prominent city-owned properties.

The City Properties Planning Group aims to determine the best uses of several properties around Hallowell, including the historic Second Street fire station and the public works garage. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. in the City Hall Auditorium.

“I hope citizens will come to Wednesday’s meeting to talk about what they think is the highest and best use of this building and what role they recommend the city and other entities might play in maintaining and rehabilitating the building for its next use,” City Manager Nate Rudy said.

At its first meeting, Mayor Mark Walker told the group — which includes councilors Michael Frett, Diano Circo and Maureen Aucoin — that determining the future of those buildings is the top priority of the task force.

Frett, with fellow Planning Group Co-Chairman Frank O’Hara, laid out an aggressive timeline of five meetings before presenting a final report and making a recommendation to the council during its April meeting.

The Hallowell Fire Department is moving to a new $2 million station at Stevens Commons on Winthrop Street early this spring. The new firehouse is being funded by an anonymous donor who ponied up the money last March to save the fire department after a decision was made by the council to lease space in a new Farmingdale fire station.


Work to repair the structure of the nearly 190-year-old Second Street firehouse is being completed by local contractor E.J. Perry Construction for about $215,000. The project is being funded in full using money approved by voters last April as part of a $2.36 million bond package, and it should be completed by April.

“This building has substantial utility and maintenance costs that are paid for out of the general fund, and the Council may want to factor these suggestions and costs into the upcoming budget discussion,” Rudy said.

The work includes shoring up the existing wooden structure, removing all basement walls, installing new exterior basement-level doors, framing a new stair system from the basement to the first floor and adding new exterior wall framing to the basement level. The work is the first phase of a two-phase process to turn the city-owned building into a more attractive property that can be an economic development opportunity for Hallowell. The second phase, the complete restoration of the wooden hose tower and other interior work, will be paid for with money raised by the Hallowell Citizens’ Initiative Committee, or the Tower Preservation Group.

The building — which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places — was built in 1828 as the Town Hall, then became City Hall when Hallowell became a city years later. The fire tower was added to the structure when the Hallowell Fire Department moved from Water Street. A council resolution in 2013 sought to ensure the building was preserved and maintained.

The wooden fire tire was used for decades to dry the department’s fire hoses, which were made of leather and cotton. After fighting a fire, firefighters hung the hoses inside the tower to dry. Snow, ice and water also accumulated the hoses, so the tower was used to drip-dry the material.

Now, in addition to the fire department, the Hallowell Food Bank operates out of the firehouse, and a collection of historic artifacts and fire department memorabilia is being stored on the second floor. There has been talk about moving the Hallowell Police Department there or turning the space into a museum, ideas the task force will discuss in the coming months.


Aucoin, a former Hallowell Code Enforcement Officer, said the fire station’s future is the most important issue for her. She said it must have a productive use, because it is expensive to operate the facility.

“We can’t just have it suck our money out,” the councilor said.

Rudy said the task force will also tackle the future of the public works garage, which Public Works Director Chris Buck said has deteriorated over the years because of neglect. If the task force decides a new public garage space is needed, it will have to decide what is the best use of the current garage.

“Most other city-owned property is in good use or it’s too small, it’s a wetland or shorefront or is not well placed to develop,” Rudy said. “We really want to focus on the Second Street station and the public works garage for now.”

The group will meet Feb. 8 to discuss the fire station and will hear a presentation from Police Chief Eric Nason about the needs of the police department. The task force will meet two weeks later to talk about the public works garage.

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ

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