NORTH STONINGTON — With columns and a roof in place above its concrete slab, the Center for Emergency Services building is expected to be enclosed in two or three weeks.
Located at 25 Rocky Hollow Road, right across from the old fire station, the new $6.36 million building will house both the North Stonington Volunteer Fire Company and the North Stonington Ambulance Association. It will be the central command center for the town’s emergency services, which have been partly housed in Town Hall.
The 13,3538-square-foot metal building will have four bays and can be expanded to five in the future.
The project has had a rocky history. Originally conceived in 2008, it had be scaled down from a 24,000-square-foot brick-faced building proposed in 2013 because the costs were much higher than expected when construction bids were opened in 2015. Then, in a referendum in August 2015, the voters rejected a $2.24 million proposal to cover the difference.
At the site on Friday, Gary Baron, president of the North Stonington Volunteer Fire Department, said that losing the 2015 referendum meant going back to the drawing board.
“We had to redesign everything; originally it had a second story and a fifth bay and now we’ve eliminated [those] and cut back on square footage to a bare minimum where it can still hold all the apparatus and equipment and the things we need,” he said. “Regardless, we’re very happy; it’s going to be a boost for the town in terms of safety and getting to emergencies quickly.”
The town generally receives more than 300 emergency calls per year, he said.
The original firehouse was built in 1947 and does not meet Occupational Safety and Health standards, such as a proper ventilation system, Baron said.
“It was dug by hand by some of the old-timers with farm tractors and they’re very proud of it still,” he said. “But the exhaust system doesn’t exist; so every time you start an engine, guys are constantly breathing [exhaust] in and we prepare food in there and it’s not insulated at all.”
Other problems include an intermittently leaking roof, a temperamental furnace and generator that occasionally needs fixing.
Baron said some of the new building’s upgrades include a standards-compliant ventilation and exhaust system and other amenities like a bunk room.
“Everything is going to be better from A to Z and everything will be under one roof,” he said.
First Selectman Mike Urgo, who was also on site Friday, said the facility will provide better, faster emergency services for the town as well as better conditions for the volunteers.
“The volunteers deserve to have good working conditions because they do so much for the community,” Urgo said. “It’s a facility people will want to spend time in.”
James Nolin, project superintendent for Enterprise Builders, of Newington, Cothe construction company for the project, said the building shell will be finished in two or three weeks.
“From then on it’s framing and mechanical rough-ins, and then it gets into the finishes,” he said.
While all the work may not be completed, Baron and Urgo expected the facility to be operational in May.