Panel seeks temporary home for firehouse

  • The Greenfield Fire Station. Staff file photo/Paul Franz

Staff Writer
Published: 2/23/2020 5:13:28 PM

GREENFIELD — The Franklin Regional Transportation Authority garage is off the table for a temporary location for the Fire Station while the new public safety complex is being constructed, according to Mayor Roxann Wedegartner.

The transit authority’s garage was former Mayor William Martin’s backup plan to temporarily house the fire department, as proposed last year.

At the Public Safety Building Committee meeting on Thursday, a subcommittee of the Public Safety Building Committee was established to find a temporary location for the Fire Station while the new public safety building is being constructed.

The subcommittee members include Precinct 1 City Councilor Ed Jarvis, Herb Forgey and Steve Drakulich.

Greenfield Fire Chief, Robert Strahan said the group “needs to look at all aspects of this project, from the standpoint of the fire station and continuing daily operations of the fire station. It does not shut down. We are a 24/7, 365 days a year.”

“We will have to find a temporary solution for the fire station which in itself is a daunting task, but it can be accomplished,” he said. “There are eight projects in the state right now where the fire stations are in temporary-type solutions.”

The main problem, Strahan said, is identifying a site for the temporary firehouse.

“We are looking at some other properties ... we are diligently looking at trying to identify a temporary solution for the fire station,” Strahan said. “Any site identified for a potential location obviously has to go through the mayor’s office, because the mayor would be responsible for negotiating.”

He requested that people join him on a subcommittee to find a temporary location, looking at some solutions.

“We would welcome town-owned land,” Wedegartner said. “We can’t seem to find it. We have not been successful with that so far.”

Wedegartner said there were two locations “not on their list.”

“One is the FRTA station; somebody who is no longer here thought that was a good idea. It is not, and I have said no,” Wedegartner said. “The second is the Green River School.”

She said the reasoning behind that choice was that the School Department has proposed funding for the Green River School in its 2021 fiscal year, so it may be occupied by the time the fire department would need it.

“The FRTA building is in very bad shape, I’m amazed the FRTA is able to function out of it,” Wedegartner said. “Even if they were able to find another temporary location, the site is not suitable for the Fire Department. The bays are not large enough for some of the equipment. There’s no conceivable way it would be able to house fire personnel.”

Strahan said, outside of those two, every option is being looked at, “the most sense for the project, but the least amount of disruption to the city as possible.”

“There are some options on the table we’re looking at but we’re going to look at town-owned land, the property where we’re building the firehouse,” he said. “I think we need to have discussions with the project manager from the library and get a timetable for the process.”

The subcommittee will be looking for a property, both city-owned and otherwise, that will house the apparatus from the station and will be about 100 feet by 80 feet, according to Strahan.

“The subcommittee will look at suggestions, evaluate them, keeping in mind we’d like to be in the heart of the city,” Strahan said. “But we will look at every option on the table.”

One suggestion proposed in the meeting was The Barn Grocery Store, at 95 River St., which announced its closure in January.

“The Barn just became available that has a building you might be able to utilize with a big truck lot for a temporary site,” said John Andrews, Public Safety Building committee member.

“Everything is going to taken into consideration,” Strahan said in an interview on Friday. “We haven’t had any conversations with any of the property owners yet.”

Strahan explained the background of the project and its next steps at its meeting on Thursday.

In November, voters approved a $19.5 million Greenfield Public Library project referendum question.

Now that the question has passed, the library project can move forward. The new library’s footprint will be built on land the city owns on Main Street, between the current library and post office, and includes the necessary financing to tear down the current fire station.

Due to finances, the city will build a public safety building in phases, beginning with the Fire Department followed by police and dispatch build outs.

“We have a site identified (for the public safety complex). We have a limited area of town-owned property, but we have found town-owned property on Beacon Street, which puts us in the same neighborhood of what has been identified as a prime location as a single firehouse,” Strahan explained. “There are some pluses that go with that. There are also some challenges that go with that property as we go through the process. We are moving forward with the project.”

The process of finalizing negotiations with the project manager is currently underway, according to Strahan. The next step is, with the project manager and the Public Safety Building Committee, there will be an interview process to hire a design consultant and architect for the project.

A $550,000 appropriation to hire the architect and engineering firms to develop the plans for a new fire station passed with no discussion from the City Council in November.

“We’re under a time crunch with the library project. I anticipate we are going to meet pretty frequently as this is going to take a lot of time and effort and a lot of projects of this size have been multiple, three, four, five years that need to be condensed down,” Strahan said. “I don’t want to overwhelm anybody, but there is a ton of work that goes with that.”

Reach Melina Bourdeau at or 413-772-0261, ext. 263.

In a previous version of this story, Greenfield Fire Chief Robert Strahan’s name was spelled incorrectly.

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