HALLOWELL — Just 16 months after an anonymous donor pledged $1 million to build a new fire station in town, the station is being dedicated at a ceremony Friday afternoon.

The red brick building gives the Hallowell Fire Department, a volunteer service, a new home on donated land in Stevens Commons on Winthrop Street, not far from the Second Street building where the department has been housed for more than a century.

City officials say they could not have envisioned this outcome even two years ago, when a special city committee charged with figuring out the fate of the city’s fire service still was considering whether to contract with the city of Augusta for fire protection or share a to-be-built facility in Farmingdale with that town’s Fire Department.

Hallowell Mayor Mark Walker said after about 13 months of deliberation, the Fire Services Committee recommended the Farmingdale option.

“Then lo and behold, a benefactor came forward and offered to donate the funds for us to build our own station,” Walker said. “We are thrilled and very thankful for the generosity. The fire station will be a wonderful asset to the city for decades to come.”

The building, constructed on two levels at a cost of nearly $2 million, houses a community/training space, a kitchen and an office for the fire chief on its upper level closest to Winthrop Street.

The lower level houses the bays for the department’s firetrucks and fire boat, along with gear storage for the volunteer firefighters and washing facilities.

“It’s not the biggest firehouse in the world, but it doesn’t need to be,” James Owens, the city’s part-time fire chief, said Tuesday. “It’s big enough for what we have.”

The department actually moved there on June 15.

“We had a historic, ceremonial last run from the station down there at noon. We had the dispatch dispatch us out for the last time from Second Street at noon and we responded here,” Owens said. “It was quite the event. A lot of people were watching.”

This week, workers are finishing up the final touches on the two-level building, whose cost has come in at about $1.9 million.

At 4 p.m. on Friday, officials plan to hold a ribbon-cutting at the station to celebrate its official opening.

OTHER EVENTS

On Saturday, the public is invited to a cookout at the fire station from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., when visitors will be able to tour the building.

Saturday’s cookout is just one of the events taking place Saturday in Hallowell.

City residents are celebrating the half-way point of the Water Street reconstruction project.

In addition to invitations to paint on the pavement that’s destined to be torn up as the second half of the project gets underway, residents will have a chance to view the entire selection of the “Murals on the Fence.” They will be hung on the construction fencing on the west side of Water Street before construction resumes.

The multimillion-dollar project paused earlier this month for the Old Hallowell Day celebration, which includes an annual parade on Water Street.

“It’s a miracle that we started (the firehouse) project last September, and we have a fully functioning fire station the next July,” Hallowell City Manager Nate Rudy said.

While the city had a $1 million pledge from a donor, who remains anonymous, it needed a place for the building to go.

Walker said a number of locations were considered, including a piece of city-owned land and locations in Stevens Commons.

A year ago, Matt Morrill, who owns Stevens Commons, donated to the city the parcel where the station now stands.

Stevens Commons is the former Stevens School complex on Winthrop Street, which the state of Maine sold to Morrill in 2016.

AN OPEN FACILITY

The first version of the design was for a bare-bones clapboard building, architect Rosie Curtis said.

“After we showed the design to the City Council, the donor was generous enough to donate more money to make it beautiful,” Curtis said.

The additions included brick cladding for the building, a commercial-type kitchen with countertops made of granite mined in Hallowell and doors for the truck bays that open to the side rather than sliding up.

Curtis said she worked with the firefighters to figure out what was needed and where it should go.

The doors were on the wish list of Owens, who had seen them in a catalog. But at $60,000 apiece, he had thought they would be too expensive for the project.

To make the building compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, the handicapped access is through the bays, with an elevator to the upper floor.

Owens said he had one requirement, and that was for a sprinkler system to be installed to protect the station in the event of a fire there.

The city was also able to install a generator to make the space a warming center in the event of a storm or widespread power outage.

During the process, Walker had said the project would not cost more than $1 million.

While the fire station cost nearly twice that, Walker said he was referring to the city’s ability to fund additional costs.

“The city wasn’t going to contribute funds,” he said. Hallowell elected officials currently are paying for the city’s share of the Water Street reconstruction project, as well as infrastructure improvements and underground work at Stevens Commons, plus repairs to the old firehouse, funded through a bond issue.

“If we had done this on our own, we would have done it by bonding and some supplemental fundraising,” Walker said. “We had voted to combine with Farmingdale, but we never got to that point.”

Owens said the goal is for the building to be open to the community.

“The citizens didn’t pay for the building, but they pay to maintain it and all the equipment belongs to them. It’s theirs,” Owens said. “It was a gift to the city. We want to make sure people see it. We’re very proud of it.”

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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