The renovations, for which $575,000 is requested in the budget for 2013-14, would cover electrical and plumbing systems, ventilation in the basement and reinforcement of the floor on which the trucks are parked. The plan would also add Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant bathrooms and leave room for an elevator.
Fire Chief Ed Karl raised concerns that the plan would reduce meeting space, and that reinforcing the floor would mean extra pillars in the basement, which is a dining and social area for the firefighters.
"We're already tight for space at the firehouse," he said. "These proposals only reduce amount of useful space. When we do training and when we have some of our larger events, we need most of the space in our current meeting room. If you add up to six pillars (in the basement), it makes that room not usable as a meeting space and affects that space, which is a very social and team-building space. These are some of the issues that I don't see being addressed."
First Selectman Rob Mallozzi questioned how often the department has meetings in that space that entail the maximum occupancy, about 60 people.
Karl admitted it happens rarely. Erik Kaeyer, of Kaeyer, Garment & Davidson, said although the meeting space would be halved in square footage, there is workout equipment that could be moved out of the room to make the usable space about the same, though he did not offer any suggestions on where to move that equipment.
Some of the facilities in the building, like the electrical and plumbing, date from its construction in 1937, said Director of Public Works Mike Pastore. Joe Reilly, also from Kaeyer, Garment & Davidson, said some of the electrical work is no longer code compliant and some of the pipes are cast iron and beyond their useful life.
As fire trucks get more advanced, they also get heavier, noted Mallozzi. The floor that holds the trucks needs to be reinforced in order to withstand the weight, including the new truck that the town approved with a special appropriation late in 2012. But to do so, the plans showed several new pillars in the basement, supporting the floor above it.
Karl and Fire Commissioner Jack Horner expressed concerns.
"The Fire Department in this town has always seemed to be pretty flexible in working with what we're dealt," Horner said. "I think we will continue to do that in the future. If I had any concerns, it's what happens when we go to shore up main bays and we have to put in extra pillars. It will diminish usable space on ground floor, which is also a dining area. My concern is that when we plan this out we don't deform that space too much."
Pastore said there could be other avenues explored besides additional pillars. The Kaeyer, Garment & Davidson representatives said they will sit down with the fire chief and work out an ideal situation. Karl said the prospect of having additional input allayed some of his concerns.
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