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Northfield fire station gets second look

NORTHFIELD — Will a multi-department public safety complex fit where the fire station now stands?

The Emergency Services Facility Committee hopes to find out.

Floyd “Skip” Dunnell, fire chief and committee member, said the committee is uncertain just how much of the 93 Main St. property is suitable for building.

The property abuts a wetland, and Dunnell asked that the Selectboard consider having the property surveyed to find out how much of the property is buildable.

“The Conservation Commission has looked at it and they’re not sure (where the wetlands protection zone ends), but they gave their best estimate,” Dunnell said. He was, however, confident that something can be built behind the fire station.

If it’s feasible, the property could become home to a scaled-down public safety complex housing the Fire and Emergency Medical Services departments as well as the emergency management director.

The 2012 annual town meeting defeated a proposed $7.5 million complex that would have brought the Fire, Police and Emergency Medical Services departments, as well as the emergency management director, together under one roof. The proposal included the purchase and demolition of a 12-family apartment building next door.

The project was defeated by a wide margin at the 2012 annual town meeting, and the committee went back to the drawing board.

Later that year, the EMS department moved out of the fire station and into the former Sunoco station at 41 Main St., owned by the Sandri Co. and shut down in 1998. The EMS department, with help from volunteers and donors, gave the once-blighted property a makeover inside and out.

Dunnell said the committee would like to explore the option of a long-term lease or outright purchase of the Sandri property, but for the Police Department rather than the ambulance service.

If the town can secure the building and build behind the fire station, the EMS and Fire departments could share that facility with the emergency management director, and the Police Department could move out of the Town Hall basement and into the former gas station.

EMS Chief Mark Fortier said he’s not opposed to the Police Department taking over the building.

“We have to come together and make this work for all of the departments,” he said.

The fire station, at more than 60 years old, would need repairs before it could house the departments. The concrete floor is heavily cracked, and fire trucks were moved to the basement earlier this year to take the weight off of the crumbling floor.

The committee will have time to explore its options before making a formal pitch to the town. With the May annual town meeting warrant already closed, a vote on the proposal would have to wait until a future special or annual town meeting.

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