Greenville to replace fire station riddled with code violations
GREENVILLE — Now that Greenville voters have approved a bond issue, the town will build a new public safety building to combine the fire and police departments, which are both grappling with outdated spaces and building code violations.
Residents approved up to $5,150,000 in bonds to finance surveys, demolition, construction and related expenditures for the new building during the annual town meeting last week. Eighty people attended, and several opposed the article, Town Manager Mike Roy said.
Across Maine, municipalities big and small have turned to public safety buildings as long-term solutions to antiquated fire and police stations often riddled with issues. Greenville’s new building would cut energy costs and better meet the needs of the departments and a community that has grown, leading to increased calls for service.
The structure, which will be built at the site of the fire station on Minden Street, is estimated to cost $2,065,791, according to an engineering study completed in October 2021.
Fire Chief Sawyer Murray listed a number of issues with the current 6,400-square-foot building, including one bathroom for all firefighters and no showers, lack of storage space, no hot water and floor drains that back up and sometimes freeze in the winter, leaving standing water on the floor.
“The fire station has outlived its life expectancy,” said Murray, who oversees a staff of 21 firefighters, plus a junior, and six trucks at the station. “Heating is completely outrageous with the amount of oil we put in and things of that nature. There’s no insulation. The roof leaks. They tried to use solar energy for heating. That failed.”
The structure is the town’s largest energy consumer, Roy said. There is also poor lighting, outdated rooms and snow damage to the exterior. Firefighters’ jackets and boots are stored behind fire trucks, so gear is exposed to diesel exhaust when the vehicles are operating, Murray said.
An engineering report from Newport-based Plymouth Engineering said Greenville’s steel-frame fire station, built in 1963, is worn and dated. It remains structurally sound despite not meeting building code requirements, the report said.
Plymouth Engineering estimated it would cost $1,861,746 to renovate the existing structure. Because of the approximately $200,000 difference between the cost of renovations and of building, it makes sense to put up a new building, Roy said.
Murray pointed out that more visitors are flocking to the Moosehead Lake region. Compared to this time last year, the fire department’s calls have almost doubled, he said.
The police department, housed inside the town office on Minden Street, is struggling with a cramped space that doesn’t allow easy access to records and evidence for cases. Records are stored in a vault at the fire station.
Maine’s yellow-flag gun safety law allows police to confiscate weapons, but there is no place to store them, Police Chief Jim Carr said.
“Just trying to interview a victim or something, there is nowhere to sit and talk in private,” he said, noting the department’s three full-time employees and nine reserve officers have about 400 square feet to work with.
The police department has seen an uptick in calls, which range from theft to mental health-related emergencies, Carr said. Drug-related calls have increased significantly, too.
Three years ago, the department would have gotten about a half-dozen calls annually from midnight to 8 a.m. Now officers get several a month, he said.
The public safety building will have space to interview suspects and victims, a decent-sized room to properly store evidence and a meeting area for officers and other agencies working together on a case rather than discussing information in the parking lot, Carr said.
A committee, including the town manager, fire and police chiefs, town officials from the select and planning boards, two residents and several others, has spent the last year discussing its vision and funding, along with visiting sites in Brewer, Newport and Carrabassett Valley, Roy said. They like Newport’s public safety building in particular – especially the sleeping quarters – and want to use it as a model.
The committee applied for a congressionally directed spending grant worth $901,748,000 in April, which has moved to the appropriations committee, Roy said. He hopes to hear back about it in the next two months. The town had also been putting money in a capital improvement account for building studies, he said.
The first debt service payments would be due in November 2023.
The bond is expected to be issued in May 2023, with plans to repay it over the course of 15 years, according to the article that residents voted on last week.
“It’s going to be a more user-friendly building,” Murray said. “We’re going to be able to store our stuff properly and maintain our stuff better. It’s going to be healthier for us. I also work per diem for the police department, and I know it’s going to be a huge relief to offer sleeping quarters.”
For information about the public safety building and to view proposed blueprints, visit Greenville’s town website.