Thomaston works to refine proposal for Fire and EMS station

Tue, 07/09/2024 - 11:15am

    THOMASTON — In the summer, if anyone is there, the Fire and EMS station’s garage doors are open. Dirt from the street incessantly piles up on the furniture. Yet, to close the doors means to suffer extremely high interior temperatures. There’s no room to train without pulling the apparatus into the street. The windows leak when it rains, which could ultimately lead to mold issues, and proposed updates to OSHA’s 40-year-old requirements are demanding clear division between potentially contaminated gear and living space, along with new gear-washing requirements, and other concerns.

    Thanks to opportunities for a new (and likely never done before) federal infrastructure grant for brick and mortar, Thomaston can apply for federal funds to help defray building costs. The funds will eventually dry up, so Thomaston needs to apply sooner than later to Senators Susan Collins and Angus King. And, regardless of this particular grant opportunity, the imminent need for a new ambulance station weighs heavily for Town Manager Kara George. Current building code doesn’t support overnight usage. Personnel either sleep on cots in offices or respond from home. For many EMS calls, every minute counts, and a lot of those minutes are consumed in just reaching the emergency rig.

    But first, residents need to be on board with the idea of a new station. And, before they can be on board, Town officials – who already favor relocating the emergency departments to the southwest corner of the Thomaston Green – need to be on board with the design.

    Port City Architecture, of Portland, reviewed its renderings for a proposed Fire/EMS station during a design meeting July 8, 2024, and were surprised by requests for alternate options.

    Since this architectural firm is in the business of designing public safety buildings, they provided a proposal that acknowledged the concerns they’ve heard from Thomaston officials, as well as what has worked best for other municipalities. The firm designed the new Augusta Police Department (which George said is beautiful), lists 16 other completed Public Safety projects on its website, and spoke of more projects not listed.

    However, some of the specifics for a Thomaston station got challenged by those who would use the building as well as personal dislikes by Select Board members.

    When can we see some other design options, asked Jamie Leo. Where were the designs that resembled what Brunswick did (not a Port City project)?

    Leo didn’t like that there wasn’t a watchtower that the firefighters could train for heights with. Also, when others at the meeting considered shaving money by eliminating the bay for the antique truck (the Buffalo), he pointed out that eliminating the estimated thousand square foot room from the proposal wouldn’t create a noticeable reduction from the $8 million dollar overall price tag. The Owls Head Transportation Museum declined to take the vehicle, and providing an exterior extension to the building such as what Rockland Fire Station does for its antique truck wasn’t an ideal option for Leo. However, Leo recognized that although preserving Town history is important, it is less important than the current needs of the Town and its people.

    “The need for this fire station, and the need for the change as Thomaston Fire and EMS, is people,” said Leo. “We are losing people….The EMS side of things needs to go to 24-hour coverage. It has to.”

    Leo said that the departments are at a critical point.

    “The fire station is falling apart,” he said.

    The roster of firefighters has decreased to a small crew. And, more apparatus are about due for replacement. 

    Select Board member Bill Hahn doesn’t like brick masonry. He’s seen too many instances of brick and mortar deteriorating. But, as others pointed out, wood and clapboard must be maintained every five years or so, for repainting and patching, and as someone said: “there’s never any funds available for maintenance.”

    In the conversation regarding shaving money, Port City’s Andrew Hyland offered the alternative: the pre-engineered building. Known commonly as pre-fab, the building would appear as a large metal, unsightly warehouse that wouldn’t last as long as a solid building. He also suggested decreasing the amount of vehicles, thereby reducing the amount of bays.

    Some residents have previously suggested phased construction to the current 6 Knox Street station. But, construction costs always continue to rise. They never decrease. In 2019, per square footage was around $300. Currently, Thomaston will be paying an estimated $525, which includes hard costs, soft costs, fixtures, furnishings, architectural and engineering fees, and permitting fees). In California, the same footage dresses out at $1500. Thomaston’s new building is establishing itself in the area of 15,000 sq ft, according to Hyland. This is a reduction from the initial proposal of 17,000 sq feet, yet a huge leap from the current 5,500 square feet on Knox Street.

    Other residents look to West Rockport’s new satellite branch of the fire station and ask if Thomaston can have that same size, and can it be phased in.

    “I would be very opposed to that because of cost of building,” said George, “and it would be a cobbled project instead of encompassing everything we need to have for the future.”

    Hyland answered the questions as follows: “It’s never going to be cheaper than it is today, and this is the time to strike. Plus, we have an opportunity to get some of that money from the federal government. This is a unique opportunity.”

    Leo pointed out that the West Rockport station was designed prior to OSHA’s announcement of requirement updates.

    For residents who question moving the station away from the center of town, Leo said that the ability to already have personnel on-site makes up for the minute or so lost in apparatus travel time. Plus, the new location, which is already owned by the Town, will be far more accessible with easy access from Route 1, designated parking lots for the public and for the staff, and a lot more space for trainings and community programs.

    “And frankly,” said Select Board Chair Chris Rector, “the new facility is going to be a good recruitment tool.”

    Hyland said that Rector’s recruitment statement has been proven.

    “That’ll put you a step ahead in getting good people,” said Hyland.


    Residents will eventually vote on the new fire station prior to construction.

    On Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2024, the current fire station will hold an open house from 5 - 8 p.m. Click here for more information: