HALLOWELL — The City Property Planning Group has decided to provide the City Council with a list of options for the future of the historic Second Street fire station rather than make a specific recommendation.

The committee came to that conclusion Thursday after the members couldn’t reach a consensus on the best use of the building, which will be vacant in about two weeks when the Fire Department moves to its new home at Stevens Commons.

“The mandate of this group was to make recommendations for what to do with these properties,” Councilor Mike Frett said. “This will all be ultimately weighed by the full council.”

Last week, there was a majority opinion that the Hallowell Police Department should move to the space currently occupied by the Fire Department, but that majority no longer exists.

Jeanne Langsdorf — president of the Hallowell Food Bank, which is in the firehouse basement — said she doesn’t think that having the food bank and the police in the same location makes sense.

“There is real concern that some clients won’t come to the food bank if the police are upstairs,” Langsdorf said. She then said that she doesn’t want the food bank in the basement anymore, either.

“I need to have volunteers who are excited, and how can you be excited about working in a basement?” she said.

The committee still cannot come up with a plan for what to do with the remainder of the multi-level firehouse, which was built 190 years ago as the Hallowell Town Hall. There has been discussion about turning the second floor into a museum, a business incubator, a livable space and community center.

Councilor Diano Circo said he still supports moving the police station to the first floor while exploring options for the second floor of the structure. The building is in poor physical shape. Recently completed renovations, totaling more than $200,000, just scratched the surface of the total work the building needs.

Circo said his biggest concern is the city ending up owning a building that isn’t being used, therefore not generating any revenue to the city.

“I think it’s an expensive property to rehab for any use,” Circo said. “Any option is going to cost money, and it’s going to have a significant impact on people’s taxes.”

City Manager Nate Rudy acknowledged that the thought of selling the building is unpopular among the committee and to many in Hallowell, but he said there is no better time for somebody else to come in and redevelop that building. Once the Police Department was relocated, there would be no way to undo that.

A lot of people don’t want to talk about selling the building, and they get upset if the idea is merely mentioned, Rudy said, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be discussed.

“It has to be on the table,” he said.

Once the council receives the committee report April 9, committee members said, the council should hold a public forum to get as much input as possible about whether selling the property presents the city with the outcome that makes the most sense. Frett said there is too much emotion and attachment to the fire station and that an elected official or appointed body should make the final decision.

“We’ve gone as far as we can do,” Frett said.

At a public brainstorming session in January, there was no support among attendees for selling the fire station, but Circo said the council needs to hear from more people. He said the council shouldn’t make any decision after only hearing from the same people it always hears from.

There was unanimous support to recommend building a public works garage on city-owned property outside of downtown Hallowell.

Public works foreman Chris Buck said the current structure on Water Street 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.

 

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundi

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