HALLOWELL — City officials are poised to make significant progress in deciding what to do with the Second Street Fire Station.

City Manager Nate Rudy said during a short walk-through of the Second Street Fire Station on Wednesday that the City Council has all of the data it needs to begin the decision-making process at Saturday’s work session at 9 a.m. in City Hall.

Volunteer Bob Ladd moves paper towels Wednesday into the Hallowell Food Bank that operates out of the the basement of the the old Hallowell Fire Department station on Second Street. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan Buy this Photo

“It’s a building that needs to be loved and used as a community asset,” he said. “There are many ways (the city) can do that.”

The workshop is open to the public, Rudy said, but it is not a public hearing. The city has been considering what to do with the property for a number of years, but new ideas have trickled in as late as January, when residents floated turning the property into a cultural center.

The building is currently being used for city storage and as a make-shift studio for artist Chris Cart. The building features a two-bedroom apartment on the top floor and a historic hose tower.

In May 2019, councilors approved $2,750 in funding for a commercial appraisal of the former fire station by Gorham-based Maine Valuation Co. That appraisal, received in December, showed the building to be worth $300,000.

The appraisal document included the opinion that if vacant, the property would be “maximally productive” if it were held for “development with a mixed commercial/residential use until such time as development is financially feasible.” If occupied, the “maximally productive” use would be “an owner (or) user desiring commercial and residential space for owner occupancy, possibly with ancillary rental income from the additional unused space.”

At a Jan. 27 public hearing, Malley Weber, owner of Hallowell Clayworks, floated her vision of a “craft and cultural center,” with space for craftspeople, a meeting room, public restrooms and other community amenities. When asked how a space like this would be funded, Weber said it would likely be run by a nonprofit, which would offer the opportunity to apply for grants. Further, she said passionate people would be willing to contribute funds and time for the projects.

City Councilor Kate Dufour said Thursday she has heard from one of her Ward 1 constituents that they supported the cultural center proposal.

In March 2018, the Kennebec Journal reported the City Properties Planning Group unanimously recommended moving the Police Department to the first floor of the Second Street fire station. Since then, the idea has been considered as a favorable use of the property if the city maintains ownership of the property. Mayor Mark Walker said in January that the city was using $800,000 as a figure for the entire project.

memorandum written by Councilor George Lapointe on Feb. 5, 2019, said that based on an August 2018 report, it would cost $336,284 to fully rehabilitate the building. The police station conversion would cost an additional $170,000 to $250,000.

The old Hallowell Fire Department station, as seen Wednesday, on Second Street. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan Buy this Photo

After a discussion at a Jan. 3 City Council retreat, four of seven councilors — Kate Dufour, Michael Frett, Patrick Wynne and Lapointe — voted yes after being asked if they supported divesting city funds from the Second Street Fire Station, either through leasing or selling with covenants to preserve certain aspects of the building.

The old Hallowell Fire Department station, as seen Wednesday, on Second Street. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan Buy this Photo

Resident Earle Shettleworth said at the Jan. 27 public hearing the city could ask for proposals on what will be done for the property, rather than just selling it to the highest bidder.

In March 2013, councilors voted unanimously it was in the best interest of the city to “take steps to ensure the fire station building is maintained and preserved for the future … and that it remains under the care and supervision of the city … by ownership or covenant.”

Mayor Mark Walker and councilors Diano Circo, Diana Scully, Maureen Aucoin, Frett, Wynne and Lapointe did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

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