The town of Oakland is moving ahead with plans to build a new $2.6 million fire station after plans for the project and its cost were approved by the town council and budget advisory committee this week.

On Wednesday, both groups voted unanimously to approve a plan and budget for the new station, which will still need approval from voters in a November referendum before it can be built.

The project is defined by a new 12,000-square-foot space to be built on Fairfield Street next to the existing station, which would then be demolished.

“We’ve needed a new building and I think a majority of the public can accept that and understands it, especially where we’ve crafted a way to pay for this thing without increasing property taxes,” said Oakland Town Manager Gary Bowman.

If approved, the project would be financed with a 30-year bond. New property tax revenue would also help prevent a tax increase, Bowman said.

The new fire station represents the second phase in a planned three-phase project to replace the Oakland Police Department station, fire station and town office. Voters originally rejected a proposal for one large complex that would house all three and instead chose to separately finance a police station, which opened in 2016 and was also completed without a tax increase, Bowman said.

The fire station is the second phase of the upgrades and the town office would eventually be replaced, though the need is not as imminent as it is for the fire station, he said.

“A lot of towns are going through this,” he said. “Many of them have new apparatuses but old buildings. The two just don’t match up. The other thing is, as the population increases, so does the number of calls we deal with. And we’re dealing with more erratic weather with wind storms and other things.”

Messalonskee Stream Hydro, which owns land on the north side of the current station, has donated the land to the town for the site of the new station. Bowman said the plan wouldn’t have been able to move forward without their donation.

The station will also be designed to accommodate voting so the town can stop using its schools as polling places.

“With everything going on around the country, it’s not really the safest situation to be using schools for voting,” Bowman said. “We want a facility where we can have our voting here.”

If the project is approved, he said the town plans to break ground April 1 and construction will take about eight months. Once the new station is built, the old one, which dates to 1953, will be demolished and replaced with a parking lot that will serve the police station, town office and fire department.

Public hearings on the project are scheduled for Sept. 27 at 6 p.m. at the fire station and Oct. 25 at 6 p.m. at the fire station.

“Our emergency services are the first lines involved in the crazy weather and everything else that goes on,” Bowman said. “Last winter we lost power and the fire department was out cutting trees out of camp roads and checking on the safety of older people to make sure they could get out. It’s pretty huge in this community.”

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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