Hopkinton fire station project may go to 2014 vote
CONTOOCOOK — The Hopkinton Fire Department is hoping that a plan to expand and renovate their station will win the favor of voters in March, but the estimated cost of the project won't be known until year's end.
"The building was built to last 20 years 40 years ago," said Chief Doug Mumford. "We have grown too big for this space."
Mumford said that since the building was constructed in 1974, the town's population has increased dramatically, the number of firefighters has grown to keep pace with the population, and there's more gear and equipment that requires storage space.
Currently the firefighters store their protective gear and helmets in the same space as the fire trucks which causes the gear to break down faster than its expected 10-year lifespan, and at a cost of $2,000 per set, that alone is a huge factor, said Mumford.
Nearly every inch of the building is used for something. The fire trucks and vehicles are stacked three deep which can delay response times for mutual aid calls because trucks have to be moved in and out of the bays by the firefighters before they can head to nearby towns that need help. There is no space for the firefighters to decontaminate, the two bunk rooms are right next to the vehicle bays, there's no room for training and instead of working on their own self-contained breathing apparatuses, they equipment has to be sent out because there's simply no place to do the work.
"We are no longer firefighters," said Mumford. "We are now emergency mitigation specialists."
Firefighters don't just put out fires, but respond to accidents, deal with hazardous materials, provide emergency medical services, conduct specialty rescues and respond to just about any kind of emergency there is, Mumford said. For all of those roles there is different equipment, but at the fire station, there's nowhere for that equipment to go.
Though the chief's office is of adequate size, he shares it with an air compressor that turns on for more than an hour several times a day and is so loud the chief has to shout over it to be heard.
"I can't work in there when the compressor's on, and I definitely can't talk to anyone on the phone," he said.
Jim O'Brien, chairman of the board of selectmen, said that the town has considered a number of options for giving the firefighters more space, but has determined that expanding and renovating the existing building in the village of Contoocook makes the most sense. Based on preliminary designs, O'Brien said building new would be more expensive than renovating the existing building and would remove the fire department from its central location in town.
"It's a great place in terms of response time because it's close to the highway and at? the junction of many of our major roads," O'Brien said.
The town would like to add a second floor to the single story building and add an additional bay to make more room for the equipment and vehicles.
"We've hired a construction management firm to get us a guaranteed maximum price," said O'Brien, and it's anticipated that the number will be in by Dec. 30.
At that time, the town will decide whether it's feasible to put the plan before the voters at town meeting in March.