FARMINGDALE — Fire Capt. Doug Ebert spent a portion of his Christmas Day painting the floors upstairs at the town’s new $1.3 million fire station, which is nearing completion ahead of an open house likely to be held next month.

Selectman Wayne Kilgore said Thursday the fire station will be completely finished in January, when the town will hold an open house, despite being operational now.

Ebert said Thursday a new station has been on the department’s wish list since he joined 26 years ago.  The department’s old station was crammed into a couple of rooms connected to the Farmingdale Town Office at 289 Maine Ave.

Because of its size, the town had to special order smaller trucks, which had to be moved one at a time and carefully driven out of the garage onto busy Maine Avenue as to not interfere with traffic. Ebert said the new station, at 571 Maine Ave., will allow the department to respond without time lost due to the aforementioned constraints.

“It’s very exciting for everyone at the department,” he said.

Farmingdale Fire Chief Dana Mealey said Thursday he was “still pinching himself” over the new station. He said extra space will give them the ability to lay out long lengths of hose on the ground and include amenities like a workbench, racks for gear and a shower to hose off gear after calls.

“We’ve just got so much more room and we can get organized so much better now,” he said. “It’s almost like we’re in a new world now.”

The Farmingdale department has 19 firefighters, according to its online roster, serving a town with a population recorded at 2,911 in 2017.

The new three-bay, 80-foot-by-80-foot station dwarfs the cramped space at the old station connected to the town office. Ebert said the extra space allows the department host training exercises with other local departments instead of scrambling to find another venue.

Ebert said the town could respond to calls out of the new station, but one hasn’t come in yet. While a call is usually not anything to be excited about, Ebert said was looking forward to seeing how the trucks move in and out of the station.

The new Farmingdale Fire Station features large, horizontal doors. Kennebec Journal photo by Andy Molloy

Kilgore said contractors, Augusta-based Peachey Builders, and engineers, Waterville-based A.E. Hodsdon, have done a thorough job since planning and construction began.

“They treated us as if it was their house and they did a very good job,” he said. “It’s nothing fancy and everything works; it’s good stuff.”

Lt. Leon Crockett, who has been on the force for 20 years, said the new station was absolutely necessary because of the lack of space in the former station, where the town’s two trucks were parked about 1 foot apart.

“We don’t know what we’re going to do with all the space,” he said. “It seems awful big to us because we’ve always had to squeeze through the trucks.”

Crockett said the fire station was designed with the future in mind, saying that the department can grow into the station over the next 50 years.

The town still has yet to decide what to do with the space vacated by the department in the town office. Kilgore said it could be used as a handicap-accessible meeting room and a break room for the town office employees. Kilgore said there have been preliminary designs for those purposes, but no decisions have been made or funding allocated for a project.

The road to the new station began in earnest in 2017, when voters approved up to $1 million in funding for a new station. That funding was never secured, however, because it was insufficient to cover the cost of bids received in September 2018. Those bids — all of which were rejected in October 2018 — ranged from $1,543,000 to $1,776,651. Selectman and engineers said skyrocketing material prices were to blame for the high bids.

Capt. Doug Ebert hangs a digital dispatch system Tuesday in the bays of the new Farmingdale Fire Station. Kennebec Journal photo by Andy Molloy

A special town meeting saw a new $1.7 million budget approved by residents in December 2018. Financing for the building was finalized in January when officials selected Kennebec Savings Bank’s loan offer, with a 4.29% interest rate. The town was looking to secure funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, but a federal government shutdown complicated the process.

Payments are estimated at $126,759, but the town could also pay the balance down monthly to reduce total interest. Projections by the town staff showed there would be $835,189 in accrued interest over the 20-year term.

Selectmen opened up a new set of bids from Maine-based contractors in February and Peachey Builders was awarded the project in March based on a $1,349,176 proposal in March. The ground was broken on the project in April.

The updated cost information was not available Thursday, as the town office was closed. Fire Chief Dana Mealey and Assistant Fire Chief Mike LaPlante were not available for comment Thursday.

In October, Town Clerk Rose Webster said the project cost, due to various change orders, increased to $1,361,425, a change of less than 1%. The town would incur additional costs for engineering and other work, but Webster did not think the town would spend the entire $1.7 million from the loan on the project. Kilgore said the cost of the land, razing the building on the land and construction of the new station will all like fit within the $1.7 million.

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