HALLOWELL — The City Properties Planning Group on Thursday decided to recommend building a new public works facility, but it couldn’t come to a consensus on what to do with the historic Second Street fire station.

The seven committee members voted unanimously to recommend moving the Police Department to the first floor of the current firehouse and keeping the city’s food bank in the basement, but there was less agreement on what to do with the rest of the 190-year-old structure or how to pay for any of the projects.

Councilor Maureen Aucoin said she couldn’t see any reason to spend any money renovating the public works garage, and the committee agreed that building a new building — potentially at the city’s old dump site near the reservoir — makes the most sense.

“There are a lot of missing pieces to this,” Aucoin said. “We don’t have the money for these projects.”

The group said it couldn’t prioritize one project over the other because more information is needed about how the projects would be funded. The current firehouse is in such need of repair that outfitting the first floor, which is presently used to house the Fire Department’s vehicles, would cost several hundred thousand dollars, police Chief Eric Nason said.

The current firehouse will be vacated when the Fire Department moves to its new station at Stevens Commons in early April. There is no timetable for when either of the two projects discussed by the committee would be completed.

“If we’re going to keep it, it has to be maintained at a certain level and it has to be consistently used,” Councilor Diano Circo said. He said it would be hard to justify the city keeping the property without it including the Police Department.

“I think that having the Police Department down there makes sense,” Circo said.

Committee member Gerry Mahoney said he was concerned with how much it would cost to turn that building into a usable space for the police and for whatever becomes of the second floor. There is support for turning that large space, which includes an apartment, into a museum.

Mahoney, a member of the nonprofit historical organization Row House Inc., said there would be ongoing, significant maintenance costs associated with the building, especially if it didn’t produce any revenue.

“There’s an opportunity to promote Hallowell in a way it has never been promoted before.” Mahoney said. “We need to turn a nonfunctioning space into something that is an attraction for the city.”

There was no disagreement over what to do with the decrepit public works garage.

Public works foreman Chris Buck said the structure has deteriorated over the years because it hasn’t been maintained. He said his department needs a new garage and a separate covered building for sand and salt. He would like seven or eight vehicle bays with an inside washing area for the winter, an office, a break room, a shower and a space to perform equipment maintenance.

He envisions a 60-feet-by-120-feet facility, and he said it wouldn’t be smart to buy a piece of land if the city already has usable property. The committee also discussed including a recycling component to the new public works facility.

Mayor Mark Walker created the property planning committee — which includes councilors Michael Frett, Maureen Aucoin and Diano Circo — to look at the best uses of city-owned properly, and the mayor made finding the best future use of the 190-year-old firehouse on Second Street and the public works garage a high priority. Rudy said the goal is for the group to make a recommendation to the City Council at the council’s April meeting about what to do with the two structures.

At previous meetings, committee members expressed an attachment to the historical significance of the fire station and the public works garage and what the firehouse has meant to the city since its construction. But the firehouse needs additional repairs and is too costly for the city to continue to maintain for its current use. The public works building is in a visible part of the city — the north end of Water Street — and on a fast-moving thoroughfare, which presents a challenge when the department tries to move equipment.

Rudy said the existing 5,600-square-foot public works building presents operational challenges for that department, and he said the city is looking at solutions that include enhancing the current space or building a new space.

The city can borrow up to $250,000 without voter approval, but Buck has estimated a new building for his department would cost at least $500,000. Rudy said a proposal that the city make that additional investment is something that calls for a lot of discussion in the community.

Rudy said nobody on the committee is talking about securing bonds yet, and if that happens, the committee would have to make a request through the Property Committee, and then it would go to the City Council.

The committee is scheduled to meet once more next week, when it will review the draft of the recommendations for the council, which will be written by committee chairman Frank O’Hara.

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.