Work on Hudson fire station progresses

HUDSON – Work has begun at the Leonard Smith Fire Station in Hudson, transforming the cramped and dated building complex into a more efficient space for the town’s firefighters.

The building, one of three stations in town, is undergoing a $850,000 project approved during town meeting.

Site supervisor Jeff Anthony, of North Point Construction, said Wednesday the crew is currently “in the feeling-out stage,” based on what workers are discovering about the existing building. The original structure was constructed by firefighters themselves in the mid-1950s.

“There was no town hall, no bay – nothing. This was a ballfield back in the day,” Hudson Fire Department Capt. Jim Paquette said Wednesday.

Paquette said his father, Gerry, was one of the volunteers working on the fire stations in the late 1970s, raising the buildings using material easy to work with.

“They had guys that could build with concrete block,” Paquette said. “If you get close to the stuff and look at the joints, they’re not great. If you go down and look at Burns Hill and you look at the actual walls, they’re straight and plumb and level, but the workmanship on them is not a mason’s workmanship – it’s firemen’s workmanship.”

As the demands of the fire service expanded along with the town’s population, rooms were added, changed and repurposed. The new design will bring significant upgrades to the central station.

“It was never designed to be lived in 24/7,” Paquette said.

Anthony said the residing firefighters will have “a much nicer place.”

He described the scope of the job, which will begin with adding new bay doors that will allow standard-size trucks to be driven inside. The station’s current tower truck was customized to ride lower, as it wouldn’t have fit inside the station in its current state.

“The second floor is brand new. The first floor is pretty much brand new except for the main portion of where the fire trucks are,” Anthony said as he described upgrading kitchen, bathroom, office and bunk space.

The renovation brings the added benefit of a morale boost to fire crews who make the building their home away from home.

“When you see the old actually getting thrown out and then putting up new walls, that’s very encouraging. It’s like a whole new era. It’s a breath of fresh air,” said firefighter and ambulance driver Justin Tracy.

Lt. Marty Conlon agreed, adding a positive effect on the relationship with the town administration.

“Back in the day, there was a lot of friction. Now, there’s more, ‘Hey, let’s sit down and talk about this and see where we can go.’?”

Anthony said the target date for completion is Dec. 1.

Don Himsel can be reached at 594-6590, or @Telegraph_DonH.