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Residents celebrate renovation project at Contoocook fire station ground-breaking

  • Kathy Shaefer, widow of former Hopkinton Fire Chief Rick Shaefer, turns the first shovel of dirt for renovation/expansion of the Contoocook Fire Station as select board chair Jim O'Brien and Fire Chief Doug Mumford applaud on Thursday, August 7, 2014.  (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)

    Kathy Shaefer, widow of former Hopkinton Fire Chief Rick Shaefer, turns the first shovel of dirt for renovation/expansion of the Contoocook Fire Station as select board chair Jim O'Brien and Fire Chief Doug Mumford applaud on Thursday, August 7, 2014. (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)

  • A large group of dignitaries and citizens gathered for groundbreaking ceremonies for the expansion/renovation of the Contoocook fire station on Thursday, August 7, 2014.  (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)

    A large group of dignitaries and citizens gathered for groundbreaking ceremonies for the expansion/renovation of the Contoocook fire station on Thursday, August 7, 2014. (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)

  • A large group of dignitaries and citizens gathered for groundbreaking ceremonies for the expansion/renovation of the Contoocook fire station on Thursday, August 7, 2014.  (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)

    A large group of dignitaries and citizens gathered for groundbreaking ceremonies for the expansion/renovation of the Contoocook fire station on Thursday, August 7, 2014. (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)

  • A large group of dignitaries and citizens gathered for groundbreaking ceremonies for the expansion/renovation of the Contoocook fire station on Thursday, August 7, 2014.  (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)

    A large group of dignitaries and citizens gathered for groundbreaking ceremonies for the expansion/renovation of the Contoocook fire station on Thursday, August 7, 2014. (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)

  • Kathy Shaefer, widow of former Hopkinton Fire Chief Rick Shaefer, turns the first shovel of dirt for renovation/expansion of the Contoocook Fire Station as select board chair Jim O'Brien and Fire Chief Doug Mumford applaud on Thursday, August 7, 2014.  (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)
  • A large group of dignitaries and citizens gathered for groundbreaking ceremonies for the expansion/renovation of the Contoocook fire station on Thursday, August 7, 2014.  (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)
  • A large group of dignitaries and citizens gathered for groundbreaking ceremonies for the expansion/renovation of the Contoocook fire station on Thursday, August 7, 2014.  (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)
  • A large group of dignitaries and citizens gathered for groundbreaking ceremonies for the expansion/renovation of the Contoocook fire station on Thursday, August 7, 2014.  (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)

Nearly 50 residents gathered in front of the Contoocook fire station yesterday to celebrate the ground-breaking on a $3 million renovation that has been in the works for more than a decade.

Former Hopkinton fire chief Richard Schaefer, who died of a heart attack in 2012, had been urging the town to modernize the Contoocook fire station since he became chief in 1999. And at yesterday’s ceremony, the speakers focused on his efforts.

“He was the impetus for the board getting off their butts to put together a committee,” said board of selectmen Chairman Jim O’Brien at the ceremony yesterday. “Without Chief Schaefer, we wouldn’t be here.”

During yesterday’s event, Schaefer’s wife, Kathy, dug a silver shovel into the dirt, touching off loud applause from the crowd.

“Thanks for seeing the dream Chief Schaefer had,” Hopkinton fire Chief Doug Mumford said to the crowd. “It’s been a long time coming.”

The dream is a modernized station and the town’s plan, approved by residents at town meeting this year, is to nearly triple the size of the Contoocook station, from 5,500 square feet to 16,000. The renovation will put another bay on the station, add a second floor – where the department can hold trainings and store equipment – and make the building compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Construction on the station has already begun. Right after the ceremony adjourned at 8:30 a.m., workers resumed the noisy job of installing pilings beneath the ground where the station’s fourth bay will soon stand.

During construction, the station and the department will continue operations as usual, Mumford made clear during the ceremony. But beginning the second week of September, the full-time ambulance crew will work from the Hopkinton Village station. Fire trucks will continue to run from the Contocook station.

The renovation is expected to be finished by March 2015 and so far is going according to schedule, said Town Administrator Neal Cass. Then, the building should last upwards of 50 years.

“We’re fixing the problems of the past and really looking ahead at the long term-needs of the department,” O’Brien said.

The future needs include a focus on community health. Over the past few years, fire calls in Hopkinton have plateaued at about 200 per year, Mumford said after the ceremony. At the same time, EMS needs have risen and now account for about 80 percent of the station’s calls.

Now, the town is in the early stages of planning a mobile integrated health pilot program with Concord Hospital and the Concord Fire Department. The goal is to expand the role of EMS to include making home visits, running prevention programs and coordinating referrals.

The expansion of the Contoocook station will offer the Hopkinton Fire Department more space and resources to provide those community health services. Construction shouldn’t prevent Hopkinton from taking part in the pilot, Mumford said. “Mobile integrated health is moving forward,” he said. “We’re really excited.”

(Allie Morris can be reached at 369-3307 or at amorris@cmonitor.com.)

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