There are currently two proposed options to renovate the George A. Parker Fire Station in West Rockport. The options, the cost of which ranges between approximately $161,000 and $400,000, were presented by Fire Chief Jason Peasley and longtime member of the Rockport Fire Department Alan Mitchell at a Nov. 13 meeting of the Rockport Select Board.

Both options would involve repairing the station's roof. The $161,000 plan, Option 1, would also involve expanding the existing truck bay that houses fire engines. Mitchell reported that currently there is only six inches of extra space available — four at the front and two at the rear of the bay — in which to park one of the town's fire trucks.

Option 1 was originally estimated to cost approximately $85,000, but this figure was increased to $161,000 following the purchase of a small parcel of land on an adjacent property to provide room for the bay expansion, as well as the estimate for roof work. The roof replacement plan was approved during a capital improvement process last year. At that time, funds were set aside to cover approximately $120,000 of the work.

The second option proposed would involve removing the existing fire engine bay, along with the center segment of the fire station, which comprises an office, bathroom and kitchenette that currently has a basement under it. In its place would be built two truck bays of adequate size for two of the town's engines.

Although it is more expensive, Peasley said the benefit to this option was that it would allow two engines to be cared for at the West Rockport station, thereby balancing the fire tucks between the George A. Parker station and the main fire station at 85 Main St. in the village. Peasley said this would facilitate quicker emergency response, because the majority of volunteer firefighters live in West Rockport and would be able to access a truck at the Parker station without having to drive into town first.

"The there are only two firefighters in the village who respond to the [West Rockport] station on off hours — Alan is one — but the majority of volunteers are closer to the West Rockport station," said Peasley, who added that having two fire engines available at the station, which sits on the corner of Route 90 and Route 17, would be advantageous in responding to emergencies, which often occur on these heavily traveled roads.

Select Board Chairman Ken McKinley asked if it would make sense to proceed with Option 1, and then consider the second expansion option at some point in the future.

"I would not recommended it," said Mitchell, who works at McCormick Builders. Mitchell warned that the town would likely be demolishing thousands of dollars' worth of work that would have been recently completed through Option 1 if it were to expand a second time, and pointed out some of the structural issues with that scenario:

"You have a basement between the two, which has an old furnace and oil tank down there. The building was first built with a flat roof, and has a concrete plank on it; it was trussed in the '80s. You'd be throwing good money against that," Mitchell said. Both Mitchell and Peasley said they were in favor of Option 2 and the long-term benefits the remodeled station would bring to the town.

“It sounds like [Option 1] has gone through the appropriate channels in the town, whereas, I understand efficiencies and looking further down the road, but the newer plan, the $400,000 one, I didn't see that in the capital improvement plan,” Selectman Doug Cole said.

“[Option 1] wasn't a final plan. That was what we came up with for a two-, five- or 10-year temporary fix … I understand there's a financial issue with this, but in a few years we're not going to have anybody responding from the downtown village; my firefighters can't afford to live in the downtown area," Peasley said.

Peasley added that one of the fire engines currently being stored at the West Rockport station had to be custom built with a reduced trunk area, at an additional cost of $12,000, to fit in the building. Meanwhile, the town is awaiting the arrival of a new fire engine in 2018, which will also be too large for the existing bay at the West Rockport station. Mitchell estimated that the current configuration at the station would suffice for a couple of years, but warned that "something needs to be done sooner than later."

“We agreed as a department that the only thing we're looking for is the addition, literally just the insulation and the bays. We'll eventually get the shelving and all that, we're just looking for room to put the apparatus for where the guys and girls are who drive the trucks,” Peasley said of Option 2.

 

At the end of the meeting, McKinley said that further discussion of the options for renovating the West Rockport fire station is not likely to resume until the beginning of next year. In the meantime, he asked Town Manager Rick Bates to research the deadline by which funds appropriated by the capital improvement plan would have to be used to perform work at the station or on other infrastructure projects in the area.