HARWICH — The groundbreaking for the new East Harwich Fire Station should take place in the next couple of weeks. The town is currently awaiting a ruling from the state Attorney General's Office on a bid protest filed by the Sheet Metal Workers Union in Boston.
Town Administrator Christopher Clark said traditionally the general contract does not get awarded until the AG's Office advises on such challenges. The challenge relates to the re-use of the apparatus exhaust system in the existing station instead of installation of a new one in the new building.
“We were trying to do the best project for the town and save some money,” Fire Chief Norman Clarke said of the appeal. “It's frustrating.”
Clark said he has dealt with these types of appeals in past projects and they are usually not successful. Clarke said there was a similar appeal when the fire headquarters was constructed and the AG sided with the town.
The company which was the low bidder on the $6,750,000 contract for the 9,750 square-foot station, Mill City Construction of Lincoln, R.I., is ready to sign the contract as soon as the issue is settled, Todd Costa, assistant principal with project architect Kaestle Boos Associates, said on Friday.
Costa said he has not worked with Mill City Construction in the past, but he has checked a couple of their references and responses have been good. “They are easy to communicate with,” Costa said. Clarke also said his first impression was a good one. The project manager, Stephen Traghella, was “very upfront and direct,” Clarke said. “We discussed generalities and how we expect to get things done and clearly he was on the same page.”
Clarke said he is encouraged that the project will move forward quickly, pointing out the engineering work has started on relocating utility poles.
Costa was confident the project would get underway by the middle of the month, with construction slated to be completed in the fall of 2019.
Officials had initially proposed expanding the existing fire substation on the site adjacent to the Routes 137 and 39 intersection in East Harwich, but that plan didn't work out because it was determined the present building would not support a second floor structure, Clarke said.
“The goal was to reuse the building as much as possible, but as we got into it the collective thinking focused on what we needed for a 21st century station and the hazards they face,” Costa said. “It was cost effective to build a new station and keep the department up and running.”
Costa pointed out the department would have to relocate if the present 42-year-old substation was renovated at an additional cost of $500,000. Instead, the present station will remain open and operational while the new station is constructed on the east side of the site.
The new station will provide a lot of amenities lacking in the existing structure. For instance, the present lockers are located in the apparatus bays, and firefighter equipment is exposed to exhaust fumes. Clarke said there have been health studies showing such contamination can cause cancer. There will be a wash room for the equipment that will help lengthen the life of the equipment. There will be separate ventilation for the room and no UV light, which can further impact the equipment. The new locker room will be separated from the apparatus room and living quarters.
There will be more space for staff, Clarke said, and “it will allow men and women to work 24-hour shifts in a respectable way,” The present structure does not provide adequate space for male and female employees. Separate showers, bathrooms and locker rooms will be in the new building.
“To their credit, they haven't been complaining,” Clarke said of firefighters working in the existing building.
The new station will have sleeping quarters for five firefighters. One of the rooms will double as the office for the lieutenant. The meeting room will also double as a classroom, Costa said, adding the new building design provides a much better use of space. The mezzanine can also serve as a repel training location.
“I have no plans to add more people out here,” Clarke said. However, there is space available when the department puts on extra staff, such as during storms.
When the public comes into the existing building for information or a blood pressure check, services are provided in the vestibule because there is no real first aid room. Costa said the new station will provide a separate first aid room and services will be provided behind a closed door.
Deputy Fire Chief David LeBlanc said they now have to pull the ambulance outside to place a patient in it to go to the hospital. In the new station they will be able to wheel a patient right into the ambulance inside the apparatus bay.
“Seconds count,” added Costa.
There will be three bays in the new station so the pickup truck and small boat that have been kept outside will be under cover. The pickup truck responds with calls for the ambulance and in the winter when there's snow on the ground it can slow response time.
The new building will be located 60 feet off Route 39 and apparatus will enter and exit from that roadway. The new building will retain the historic look with a cupola on top. It will have a cement clapboard exterior.
Clarke said a groundbreaking for the new station will be held soon, and the Crowell family will be invited to participate. Fred Crowell donated the land for the substation, he said.