Firehouse Building Committee Getting Down to Details

October 18, 2023
This is a rendering of what the new fire station might look like. Courtesy photo

Members of the Fire Station Building Committee got their first full look at architectural renderings at a meeting on Monday, viewing the 25,500-square-foot structure proposed for 139 The Great Road from various locations along the street, neighboring properties, and overhead.

The committee’s focus continues to be on the Historic District Commission (HDC), which has jurisdiction over not only the exterior appearance of the proposed building, but also demolition of the current structure on the site.

Building Committee members hope the HDC can decide by January if the design is appropriate. Approval would green-light the project to the March Annual Town Meeting warrant for bonding. Sean Schmigle, lead architect on the project with the firm Kaestle Boos Associates, said the schematic design phase should be complete early in January.

Since the HDC last week agreed that the only practical option is apparatus bays facing the street, the designers and Building Committee are moving forward with specific architectural elements to present to the HDC. Presenting on Monday were Schmigle and the firm’s director of design, Seunghwan Lee.

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They displayed a rendering of a mansard-style roof around the building perimeter, with a parapet on the sides to screen ventilation equipment. Window dormers face the street. Committee member Jeffrey Dearing said the mansard style in front is more “institutional looking rather than the fabric of that neighborhood” and asked to see a gabled roof option.

All of the renderings displayed a white building. Town Manager Matthew Hanson asked the architects to provide views incorporating two or three other colors.

Also visible on the drawings were retaining walls on the west side that will accommodate the parcel’s changes in grade.

One area of discussion at Monday’s meeting was the purpose of a planned 40-by-60-foot prefabricated outbuilding in one of the rear corners of the site.

Originally proposed for storage, plans were later expanded to accommodate maintenance of the ladder truck. Lt. Mark Daly, the firefighters’ union president who sits on the Building Committee, wondered how that change took shape. He pointed out that the town does not employ a specialized public safety mechanic; work is now handled by the Department of Public Works.

Schmigle said that the allowance is actually a future consideration. Assistant Town Manager Amy Fidalgo added that the mechanic’s position is a long-term staffing goal of the department and would need to be added to the bylaw.

Committee member Angelo Colasante asked, “Why would we put maintenance of public safety vehicles on one of the smallest lots we have?”  He said the outbuilding will have to comply with lighting and vehicle exhaust requirements. “I really think a maintenance component should be out of this project,” he said.

The new building will provide space for “a lot of regular maintenance that firefighters do in the new bays,” Hanson pointed out. The building in the rear, he said, woild be for more specialized maintenance.”

Daly noted that a neighboring department uses portable equipment to service a ladder truck.

The outbuilding is still required for short- and long-term storage, Schmigle said, to take the pressure off the main building.

“There are significant storage needs that we are not currently meeting and that’s a significant issue,” said Select Board member Emily Mitchell.

Answering a question from Fire Department Capt. Mark Sullivan, Schmigle said the planned layout can accommodate the department’s two trailers that currently are store elsewhere.

The architect said the latest rendition reduces some basement space. Colasante stated that if there’s a way to make the building smaller “without compromising the Fire Department, we have that responsibility.” He added that could include “using the existing fire station in some capacity.”

The architects favor a rear-facing lobby, and one addition is a sidewalk leading to the public entrance at the rear of the complex. Daly noted that the interior design should facilitate quick transport for an emergency visitor from the public entrance to the ambulance bay.

Schmigle said adding the sidewalk necessitated reducing the size of the apron in front of the bays. Daly said all vehicles except the ladder truck will be able to turn around on the apron and back into the station. The ladder truck will have a dedicated drive looping around the building so it always is facing out.

Daly also recommended that the tower planned for the front eastern corner of the fire station move a little forward to make it more accessible for upper-story ladder training.

Committee member Nina Tate called for screening on the east side of the property that will provide nearby residences with “as much privacy as possible.”

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Joseph R Piantedosi
October 22, 2023 2:19 pm

The rendering shows a hose tower on the left side of the building which were used way back when the old canvas hoses needed to dry out. I didn’t think new hoses needed this so could someone explain the reason for this?

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