HALLOWELL — The City Council voted Monday to keep the nearly 200-year-old former fire station building under city ownership as officials mull future uses for the landmark space.

The council’s motion also included: letting the food pantry stay, moving the police department to the building, exploring additional uses, and tasking the property committee with working out the details of future building renovation plans.

The fire station was built in 1828 and served as Hallowell’s town hall until 1899 when city hall was built.

The fire department moved into the building in 1900 and later relocated to Stevens Commons in 2018. Since then, city officials have been discussing moving the police department to the building while keeping the Hallowell Food Pantry in the basement. While a formal decision has not yet been made concerning the remaining space, ideas pitched have also included space for apartments or a museum.

Late last year the city heard a presentation from representatives with Artifex Architects & Engineers of Bangor, in which they presented a conceptual design for renovating the building to house the police station, which currently is in the city hall basement.

The engineers’ proposal would cost roughly $3.2 million and involves updating the building to be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and moving the department from an 800-square-foot space to a 4,000 square-foot space.

Councilors were split on the proposal, and Mayor George Lapointe said he felt the expansion in size was too much, given that the department has five full-time officers, including police Chief Scott MacMaster.

Before making any decisions regarding the new design and renovations, however, officials had to decide whether or not to keep the building under city ownership. The Hallowell Food Pantry, for example, would have difficulties planning for the future without knowing if the building would remain in the city’s hands.

During a December workshop, the majority of councilors favored keeping the historic building, with Councilor Diana Scully hoping to keep the building and complete the proposed renovations in time for its 200th anniversary.

Councilor Patrick Wynne, during last month’s workshop, said he supported selling the building and instead having a new purpose-built facility for the police department. And on Monday, Wynne abstained from voting on the multi-part motion to keep the building.

“I do continue to believe, for reasons I’ve stated in previous meetings, that divestiture is the best position for this building,” said Wynne. “However, if we do keep it, I am fully committed to working with council to get the best possible outcome we can.”

Prior to the vote, resident Roger Pomerleau, who also serves on the Hallowell Citizens’ Initiative Committee that has been working toward the building’s preservation, said he supported the motion.

“I know it’s like a living thing, and it will evolve, but it’s a start,” he said. “So I’m in favor of getting some momentum, and I think this gives you the direction.”

With Wynne abstaining, all present councilors voted in favor of the motion.

Looking ahead, the Property Committee will discuss the building and renovations further and report back to the City Council.

“I think that is an important first step,” Lapointe said after the vote. “One step of many, and we’re going to have to keep the pot boiling on this to make sure we take those steps in a timely fashion.”

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: