Litchfield Fire Dept looks to relocate
LITCHFIELD – On March 13, Litchfield voters will have the opportunity to decide whether or not to give the green light to a proposed $3.75 million fire station to replace the existing one, which is facing multiple issues.
According to the Litchfield Fire Station website, “The Board of Selectmen unanimously approved – 5-0 – a revised Fire Station Bond Article in the amount of $3.75 million.”
The original proposed $5.5 million warrant article for the new fire station was seen as too high.
According to the Litchfield Fire Station website, “These revisions were made collectively by members of the Board of Selectman, Budget Committee, Eckman Construction, Warrenstreet Architects and Town & Department staff.”
Basically, they worked to find a happy balance by taking things out to decrease the projects cost while still meeting the needs of the fire department, officials said.
“This building was built by volunteers almost 60 years ago and served us those nearly 60 years. So, I imagine any new building would last us 60 years or more,” said Doug Nicoll, deputy fire chief.
It took two years to build the current fire station, and it was done at no cost to town residents, officials noted.
“Volunteers took timber off the property and brought it to the mills and built it at no cost to the taxpayers and gave it as a gift to the town,” Nicoll said.
However, having been built between 1957-1959, the building hasn’t seen any major improvements in nearly 40 years, and over the years has accumulated multiple issues.
Nicoll said the current fire station is in the wrong spot geographically, and is too close to the Merrimack River with all the residents being to the east of the station.
The proposed site of the new station is at the corner of Alburquerque Avenue and Liberty Way, and Nicoll said, “So, number one, it would cut down response times.”
As it is, fire departments aim to have the first truck on the scene of an incident within 4 minutes of leaving the station. Moving the station to this new location will be beneficial in that it allows trucks to get on the road faster, but it’s also closer to where the on-call firefighters’ homes are, allowing for a shorter response time for them to make it to the station, Nicoll said.
According to its website, “The town’s population is now 12 times what it was when the current station was built, and annual calls have gone up over 18 times.”
In 1959, the town’s population was 721, and in 2017 it was 9,300. Annual calls in 1959 were 35, whereas in 2017, there were 653 calls.
“We have five vehicles currently stored outside, because they don’t fit in the building. We also don’t meet a lot of fire codes and ADA requirements,” Nicoll said.
The new station would solve a significant amount of the issues the station currently has, Nicoll noted.
“We have lack of space, we’re not near our highest population area, we have significant issues with no handicap access, we have structural issues, there’s no way of expanding the building where it sits because of wetlands and because of the way the station is built, we have no space to put trucks,” Nicoll said.
With there being no space for some of the fire trucks, they are left outdoors where snow may accumulate on top of them, causing for a longer response times while first responders clear the trucks. Also, with no indoor space to store the vehicles that, means firefighters also work on the trucks outside, whether the weather is hot, cold, rainyor snowy.
“Part of the town’s master plan is to have town hall, the fire department and, eventually, a library up there for the town center,” Nicoll said.
This could be a step in the right direction toward executing that master plan if residents decide to vote for the new station. They would need at least 60 percent of voters’ support to begin constructing the new station. In past years, when the issue came up, he said they’ve had 50 percent, but never the majority needed to pass it. Bicoll said they’re hoping to get those extra votes to support it this time around.
“The construction would start immediately if the vote passed. It would take eight to 10 months for construction and, hopefully, this time next year we’d be moving into the building,” Nicoll said.
For additional information, visit https://litchfieldfirestation.com.
Adam Urquhart can be reached at 594-1206 or firstname.lastname@example.org.