$30M pricetag causes “sticker shock”; selectmen to discuss study Tuesday night
An advisory board is recommending that the town consider building a new consolidated fire station off Gliniewicz Way, while also acknowledging that the project’s initial cost estimates comes with “sticker shock.”
Consultants hired by the Fire Station Study Committee estimated that it could cost between $30-$34 million to build the headquarters on a six-acre parcel across from the middle/ high school and adjacent to the senior housing complex.
The figure a range of costs including site acquisition, site prep, building the structure, buying and installing a new radio tower and station telecommunications equipment, plus standard contingency and cost inflation allowances.
“Quite frankly there was some sticker shock when we first saw this as well,” said Fire Chief John Nuttall. “We’re not blind to the economy we’re slipping into… But at some point we need to do something about this and the [construction] numbers are only going to increase.”
Study committee chairman Derek Haimadi, who is also an Abington firefighter, said that the project scope and cost estimate ended up in line with what they saw while visiting other fire headquarters, while ackowledging it was a big number.
“This is generally in the ballpark of cost and size,” he said.
Town Meeting approved funding for the study at the 2019 Annual Town Meeting. The current fireheadquarters, located 1040 Bedford Street, was built in 1962. Station 2 located, at 4 Rockland Street, was built in 1973. Town fire officials have said the current buildings have a number of issues, including that they are too small to meet the needs of a modern fire department. Current lot sizes prevent the buildings from being expanded.
Selectmen are expected to discuss the committee’s recommendation at its meeting Tuesday night.
The study committee’s recommendations were based on a nearly 300-page report prepared by Kaestle Boos Associates, Inc., a Foxborough-based architecture firm that specializes in feasibility studies for large municipal facility projects. The firm conducted site inspections of both existing stations, analyzed response times from each of the proposed sites as well as the existing stations, reviewed incident data for the past five years, and surveyed the fire department about their space needs. It prepared cost estimates for three different floor plans, including one version that consolidated the town’s building and health departments into the same complex as fire department headquarters.
Lacking a large town-owned parcel of land along Bedford Street, the main artery that runs through Abington, the consulting firm said the Gliniewicz Way property and the former North School property on Adams Street were the best two options for a consolidated fire station. Both provide adequate response time to all corners of the town, and the cost of building at both sites were similar. A commercial site along Bedford Street was briefly considered at the start of the study, but dropped once it was included as part of another commercial development.
Both the Gliniewicz Way and the North School sites have some challenges. The North School site is smaller and the new consolidated station would take up virtually the entire plot with no room for future expansion. It sits at one of the most dangerous intersections in town — Rt. 58 and Birch Street — and nearly half of the department’s runs would go through another dangerous intersection — Adams and Washington streets at Shaw Avenue.
In addition, in order to make way for the station, the town would first have to demolish the North School, which has asbestos in a number of locations.
The Gliniewicz Way property is larger, would accommodate the station’s footprint better, and still have room for possible future growth, if needed, according to the study. However, the town first has to acquire a portion of the site from a private landowner. The proposed site is nestled between two wooded marshlands and would require some environmentally sensitive site work. The biggest concern for committee members, however, was the ability for fire trucks and ambulances to leave on calls during heavy traffic periods on Gliniewicz Way, specifically when middle/high school students are being dropped off and picked up.
A short-term solution would have firefighters trigger the traffic lights at the Rt. 18/Gliniewicz Way intersection once they know they’re leaving on a call, thereby allowing the roadway to flush out ahead of them. A long-term solution, not factored into the cost of the project, would include possibly widening the roadway to provide fire trucks and ambulances a reserved lane out of the complex.
The study committee voted 4-1 at its meeting on May 20 to recommend building the station on the Gliniewicz Way site instead of the North School property. Committee member Jim Dombrowski supported the North School site, saying wetlands and high-water table issues around the Gliniewicz Way property would make it a more challenging location to build.
“I just think the environmental issues on the Gliniewicz Way site are going to be a significant factor if you go to develop on that site,” he said during the committee meeting. “Having known that land for a long time, I just know you’re going to have issues.”
Abington Fire Captain Jarrod Driscoll, who served on the study committee, said the Gliniewicz Way site was clearly a better option.
“The size of the [North School] lot is too small, it doesn’t allow for expansion, and the traffic is going to be awful,” he said. “If we have the Gliniewicz Way site, I just don’t see any disadvantages, other than two times a day there will be traffic.”
Study committee member Roger Boddie said he too had concerns about the environmental issues around the Gliniewicz Way site, but that it deserved further investigation. Bottom line, he said, is that the existing stations need to be replaced.
“We need to replace those facilities,” he said. “It’s an embarrassment that we ask out first responders to work in facilities like what I toured.”
A preliminary sketch of what a new centralized Abington Fire Department headquarters could look like. Image by Kaestle Boos Associates, Inc.
DISCLOSURE: The author of this article is a member of the Abington Planning Board, which may have a future review and permitting role on this project.