SKOWHEGAN — Town Manager Christine Almand got a unanimous go-ahead from selectmen Tuesday night to sign a purchase and sale agreement and to spend $5,500 as a down payment for land off East Madison Road, where a new public safety building is to be built to house police and fire under one roof.

The Skowhegan Police Department has been operating for decades in the basement of the Municipal Building on Water Street.

Skowhegan Fire Chief Shawn Howard said the fire station on Island Avenue was built in 1904 and is believed to be the oldest continuously operating firehouse in the state.

Both Howard and police Chief David Bucknam said a combined Public Safety building would add to the efficiency of both departments and a cost saving on heat, electricity and fuel.

The new public safety building, with voter approval at Town Meeting on June 11, would be built on Dunlop Lane, on 11.3 acres between the Nazarene New Horizons Community Church and a large water tower on East Madison Road in Skowhegan.

Almand said the site is not far from the new county jail, built just over the line in East Madison in 2009.

“It’s amazing. If you stand up in the middle of the field, it overlooks all of the town,” she said. “You’re looking to put your Fire Department and your Police Department together. We have a need for a new fire station. The building is not structurally sound to be able to house our fire station for much longer.”

Almand said the town doesn’t own property suitable for such a structure and a combined Public Safety Committee researched several properties and found the piece owned by Clarice B. Dunlop to be the best suited. The 12-member committee is made up of police and fire officials, the code enforcement officer, the road commission and a Somerset County commissioner from Skowhegan.

“It’s a good mix of town representatives as well as citizen representatives and business representatives,” she said of the committee.

Skowhegan resident Ned Goff said his concern about the proposed location is that it’s on “the other side of town,” away from the hospital, the high school and other schools, the Sappi paper mill and the New Balance factory.

“You’re going to be fighting the bridge,” Goff said. “I think it’s a poor spot.”

Goff added that the proposed site is ledge and land that drops off dramatically, but Howard noted that the land is workable.

Howard said Skowhegan is divided into four fire districts and that the proposed site is in an area where 36 percent of all the fire calls originate. He said the proposed site in 1.4 miles from the current station and that anywhere a station is located has its advantages and disadvantages. Howard added that 18 of the 22 firefighters live on that side of the Kennebec River.

Bucknam said the new location would not affect call times for police, as they are in patrol cruisers all over town.

The proposed location also would not affect homeowners’ insurance rates, others said.

Goff added that the cost of the new combined building could be more than Skowhegan taxpayers might be willing to pay.

“I hope everybody’s prepared,” he said.

The estimated 26,000-square-foot building could cost upward of $5 million, he said.

Almand said hat at the 2017 Town Meeting residents voted to come up with $100,000 from surplus to go toward the new building, and a portion of a $50,000 Fire Department reserve account was tapped to pay for initial engineering work.

The final cost of the building has not been determined, she said.

Almand said the land is suitable for construction. Town sewer lines will be extended from the area of Coldbrook Saab and a pressure pump will be used to bring water to the building. She said Skowhegan’s public safety building will join other communities across the state in updating fire and police facilities.

Almand said that with the Police Department possibly vacating the basement of the Municipal Building, future plans for the Skowhegan Opera House, upstairs from the town offices, would be enhanced in a positive domino effect.

A public hearing on the project has been scheduled for 5:30 p.m. May 8 in the Municipal Building. The architects and engineers will explain the project then.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

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Twitter:@Doug_Harlow