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Hopkinton considers addition for outdated fire station

After returning from a paramedic call in Hillsboro, Hopkinton firefighters Kevin Culpon (left) and Matt Cox fold towels that were hanging to dry on a line inside the Hopkinton fire station on November 24, 2013. "Part of being a firefighter is just making do," Culpon said. The station, which is short on space and lacks amenities like a laundry dryer, is awaiting a major renovation to their 1974 building.  

(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

After returning from a paramedic call in Hillsboro, Hopkinton firefighters Kevin Culpon (left) and Matt Cox fold towels that were hanging to dry on a line inside the Hopkinton fire station on November 24, 2013. "Part of being a firefighter is just making do," Culpon said. The station, which is short on space and lacks amenities like a laundry dryer, is awaiting a major renovation to their 1974 building. (WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

There’s a clothesline running through one of the bays in the Hopkinton fire station.

The department has a washing machine for the firefighters’ gear, Chief Doug Mumford explained, but no dryer.

“That’s how we dry,” Mumford said with a shrug.

The lack of a dryer is the least of Mumford’s worries in the station, which was built nearly 40 years ago and was only supposed to last 20. Tonight’s select board meeting will be the first time a construction firm will present details of a renovation to add a second floor to the station, as well as the first opportunity for public comment on that proposal.

When that plan goes to voters at town meeting in the spring, Chairman Jim O’Brien said it will be the most expensive item the town has considered in years. Bonnette, Page & Stone, the firm chosen to manage the project, won’t have an official cost estimate until the end of December, but O’Brien anticipated the price would be between $2 million and $2.5 million.

“The station now is inadequate, and what we’re trying to build now will meet their needs,” O’Brien said. “It’s really bringing us to the level we need to be.”

Mumford said he wanted Hopkinton residents to understand how an addition would be practical, not extravagant.

“We’re not asking for the Taj Mahal,” Mumford said. “We’re asking for a building that will last us 50 years.”

The building was built in 1974, when the Hopkinton fire department consisted of two guys who worked Monday through Friday and went home every night, Mumford said. They managed between 350 and 400 calls each year.

Now, Hopkinton has a “21st-century department,” Mumford said, in a 20th-century building. Seven full-time firefighters respond to more than 1,200 calls each year, and two people stay at the station overnight seven nights a week.

Each of the two overnight rooms is also an office, with a desk and computer crammed next to the bed.

If there’s 2 to 3 inches of snow on top of the trucks, that has to be shoveled off or the trucks can’t fit into the garage.

The tiny station lobby also functions as a kitchen and a meeting room, and the department isn’t allowed to host training classes in its building because it doesn’t have adequate space for attendees.

The fitness area is a couple of tired workout machines in one of the garage bays.

The station’s sole bathroom is not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and Mumford said most firefighters just go home to shower and clean up after a call.

“This station was made in an era when trucks were smaller, equipment was smaller,” Mumford said.

High on Mumford’s list of priorities for the addition is a training room that could seat up to 50 people. That space could double as an emergency operations center during major events like snowstorms.

“The important part is to get that seating,” he said, explaining he wants to be able to host surrounding fire departments in Hopkinton.

The preliminary design for the station would also provide for separate, ADA-compliant bathrooms for men and women, adequate office and storage space and one new bay.

And a dryer.

The town also considered building an entirely new station, Mumford said, but that plan would be more expensive and would move the station away from its location on Pine Street.

“It’s in the center of town. . . . Everyone knows where we are,” Mumford said. “We get a lot of walk-in medicals because they know we’re here.”

Voters in the past two years have approved money in the budget for the town to study its options to improve on the current station, O’Brien said, so this proposal for an addition won’t be a surprise at town meeting in March.

“This isn’t new,” O’Brien said. “They’ve been funding us to get the i’s dotted and the t’s crossed.”

But between now and town meeting, O’Brien said town officials want as much input from the public as possible. Tonight’s meeting will begin at 5:30 at town hall. The next opportunity for comment will be a public meeting Dec. 12 at 6:30 p.m. at the fire station.

“Two million dollars is a big bond for the town,” O’Brien said. “But the town needs to invest in our fire safety.”

(Megan Doyle can be reached at 369-3321 or mdoyle@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @megan_e_doyle.)

FYI- a firemans uniform weighs about 50-75 lbs a piece and im sure you wouldnt want to use a washing machine or dryer afterwards if it was still working that smelt like smoke. Im pretty sure they need a heavy duty machine. Also as far as meeting in another meeting space down the road doesnt really make me feel safe considering weekly mandatory meetings when all fire department employee are there and the fire engines and ambulance are in another building would add what 10-15 minutes to a first responders emergency which could be a life saved. Come on people this is about safety not about being cheap.

Thank you for the information, Chuck-y. It helps. You are correct about the dryer so that's one question answered. The story was talking about holding meetings with other departments, which wouldn't occur weekly. As for intra-department meetings... we have 7 FT fire fighters. Add in part time and maybe support staff and you're talking perhaps 15 people at the most. We are lucky enough in our town to have a library with TWO meeting rooms at most five minutes from the station so the meeting room still seems like a needless luxury to me.

Ducklady I agree with djsteve321 you should get out on a Monday night and go to a meeting and see first hand how many people make up that fire house.They have volunteers on top of the 15 plus guys you accounted for. They are covering a 24 hour shift lets remember. And thank god for all the volunteers. They are not asking for a luxury meeting room they are clearly asking for space it's a 40 yr old building that was great in the 70s and 80s look how much the town has grown since then. Its time.

It's really difficult to provide job specific training in a library meeting room. One must remember that to maintain their state required certs, they must have training on a regular basis. A library is not a suitable place to don and doff fire gear, SCBA tanks, etc.

I want to voice my opinion here. I attended the information meeting at the Town Hall tonight in regards to an addition to the fire station. I liked what I heard and the questions that were asked, had an answer. The fact is, this building is just TOO SMALL for the needs of the town and especially the equipment. We rely on emergency responders every day. Anyone who has any doubt in this project needs to take a walk through the Contoocook station. Picture yourself working there. Spending hours a day in this building. Uncomfortable work environment, less than acceptable wash rooms, terrible sleeping quarters and desks on top of desks in only 1 office. There is a small meeting room that MIGHT adequately accommodate 20-25 people. Have you ever driven up Pine Street on a Monday evening when the fire department has their monthly meeting and looked in the window of the meeting room? How many volunteers are standing? Oh that's right, you are probably at home deciding what TV show to watch next. The arguments I have read in opposition to this project are horrifying and disgusting.

djsteve, This town has a history of building controversial buildings with little public discussion. This is exactly the process we need to be going through. Your insults are not helping, really. I'm still not understanding the need to meet in the fire station with a large and pleasant meeting room less than five minutes up the road.

As reliable as the sun rises in the east every day ....the elite liberal enclave of the republic of Hopkinton again proposes a $$$ multi-Million tax hike. Anybody remember the recent $800,000 they paid for a conservation easement. Anybody remember the new Highway dept, Anybody remember the $ 1 MILLION senior Center......

exactly as I predicted on these pages in the past - told you so ! liberals just cant go even 1 year without some new shiny trinket to oooohhh and ahhhh over

sail, This has nothing to do with being liberal. It has everything to do with being rich. Have you not figured that out yet? We have two villages, one wealthy and one not. The wealthy one likes to spend money on shiny new buildings, yes. But that's not a function of their political beliefs. It's a function of their need for stimulation combined with no need to count pennies and a Keep Up With the Jones mentality.

And yes, I would (and have) predicted the same thing. The difference is I don't have a hammer so everything doesn't look like a nail to me. Or to most people, actually.

PS: I am not unsupportive of this project, but building yet another expensive meeting room in a town awash with them is simply not a good argument in favor of it. There's a laundromat--with dryers--literally within walking distance of the station. I'm surprised they're not using it if they need access to a dryer. Honestly, I have no made up my mind on this yet. The FD needs to build a more compelling case than what's outlined here. Part of the problem may be the emphasis placed in the story on meeting space, etc. As a reader I cannot tell how much of that emphasis arises from the conversations that went into the story. I'm definitely listening, but meeting space really doesn't cut it.

There's a high school right down the street with large unoccupied meeting rooms all summer and a week every two months. There are church basements available, a Legion hall, two elementary schools in town and a senior center and library meeting rooms within spitting distance of the fire station. Please don't ask me to jack up my taxes because you want to host other fire departments in your own special room. Also, do not ask me to feel badly because you're already doing the right thing--drying clothes on a line. While there may be *good* reasons for putting on an addition, things like this just take away from them. I'd like to know how many firefighters other towns of equal size have. Seven full time seems like an awful lot for a small town. Perhaps if we let one or two go it would make more room for the rest of them.

That is sage advice for every small town in NH. AMEN! For once we agree!! Now they should get busy hanging those clothes out to dry.

hmmm...never knew a snowstorm was a major event in NH.

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