Hopkinton considers addition for outdated fire station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)
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @megan_e_doyle.)