New firehouse in store for Searsmont

By Fran Gonzalez | Feb 13, 2018
Photo by: Fran Gonzalez The current Searsmont firehouse, located across the road from Fraternity Village General Store, has become increasingly cramped.

Searsmont — Searsmont Fire Department will break ground this spring on an overdue firehouse.

Groundbreaking will take place May 1 for the new building, which will be situated off Pond Road on an access road to the former Sprowl's, more recently known as Come Spring Business Park.

The right-side older section of the existing firehouse, which dates back to the 1940s,  was once used for potato processing, according to Searsmont Fire Chief James Ames. The barn-like sand shed on the far left housed the peeling operation.

According to historical documents posted on the firehouse wall, the building was being used as a truck garage when the town purchased it in 1974. It was then renovated, complete with overhead doors for three firetrucks.

In 2000, three additional bays were added on the left side of the original building and a bay on the other side was converted to offices. And there the posted historical record of improvements stopped.

By 2017, townspeople faced up to the need for a new firehouse and, at a special town meeting in May, authorized borrowing for a new building. No question it's needed.

According to First Selectman Bruce Brierley, the old section of the firehouse is inadequate for a number of reasons.

"The septic system is a tank system that has to be pumped periodically," he said. And because of its proximity to the St. George River, there is no room to expand the leach field.

The location of the existing firehouse, in the center of town and at the end of a sloping curve, is also hazardous, Brierley said.

According to Chief Ames, the old firehouse also has flooding issues, and the overhead doors are prone to freeze to the ground. In addition, the doors barely accommodate the firetrucks, and newer, bigger trucks will not fit through them at all.

There also is no designated parking area at the existing building. When meetings occur, cars line the road, Ames said.

The cost of the new building is estimated at $1.2 million. When the Town Office was built, it had a similar price tag, but thanks to local people, contractors and business owners who donated materials and labor, it "didn't cost the taxpayer anything," Brierley said.

Robbins Lumber and Viking Lumber were among the businesses that donated materials for the new Town Office. For the new firehouse, Lucas Construction will do all the site work and much of that cost will be donated, Brierley said.

"I don't expect it's going to cost what the architects tell us it's going to cost," he said.

During their Jan. 16 meeting, selectmen voted to approve a contract with J & N Brown Construction to build the fire station. They anticipate a November completion date.

The old building will be put up for sale.

Trucks in the old section of the Searsmont Firehouse barely fit. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
Flooding issues cause overhead doors to freeze to the ground. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
Architect's initial rendering of the new Searsmont Firehouse. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
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