BRATTLEBORO >> After several decades of committees, planning and inactivity, the town of Brattleboro took its first step in updating its fire and police stations.
On Thursday afternoon, town officials turned the first spade of dirt in a project to rebuild the West Brattleboro Fire Station on Western Avenue.
Select Board Chairman David Gartenstein said he has been involved in this project as a member of the board for the last four or five years.
"It seems as if it has been a generation we have been planning to make these updates. There have been a lot of up and downs."
Gartenstein, Brattleboro Fire Chief Michael Bucossi and Town Manager Peter Elwell thanked everyone who has been involved over the years, including members of the current and from past Select Boards, Town Meeting Representatives and staff members of the town of Brattleboro.
"I thank everyone for their hard work and service in keeping everyone in Brattleboro safe," said Gartenstein.
Bucossi said not only does the new facility mean his firefighters will have a safe and healthy workplace, it is "The most visible example of the government's investment in the overall safety and wellbeing of the people we serve."
Bucossi said the construction of the West Brattleboro station is the first step of bringing the town's fire and police facilities "into the 21st century."
"I also want to thank the fire department staff for keeping their focus on the big picture and continuing forward like the professionals they are," he said.
While renovations for Central Fire Station on Elliot Street are slated for review by the Development Review Board on Aug. 15, Elwell said the West Brattleboro Station doesn't need the same level of review.
The existing building on Elliot Street has four engine bays and a second floor. Sleeping rooms are included in the renovations. The two bays facing Spring Street will remain the same. Part of one of the bays facing Elliot Street will be used for a new administrative area. The other three will house the fire department's smaller vehicles. Three new, bigger bays will accommodate larger trucks with a section for clean-up and decontamination in a single story design. Each new bay will be designed to fit two vehicles.
For the northwest corner addition, the hose tower will be three stories high of which the bottom floor will be used for storage room. Where the new and existing buildings meet will be the captain's office, lieutenant's office, a small training room and the station watch desk.
The third part of the renovation project involves the purchase of the Brattleboro Reformer building on Black Mountain Road. On Aug. 10, the Police-Fire Facilities Building Committee will meet to review the design for the new police station. The town hopes to buy the building soon, but the purchase is on hold pending a second environmental assessment to address concerns regarding materials from the printing process found in the sanitary sewer system. The project, Elwell said, is still moving along on time.
As part of the renovation plan on Black Mountain Road, the town will design a small office for the Reformer news and advertising staff, separate from the police station, with its own entrance. On Thursday, the Reformer announced the building's printing press will be dismantled and moved to Pittsfield, Mass., the headquarters of New England Newspapers, Inc., which also owns the Bennington Banner, the Manchester Journal and the Berkshire Eagle.
But because of the move to Black Mountain Road by the police department, about 8,500 square feet will be left vacant in the Municipal Center.
Elwell told the Select Board he has met with representatives of the state of Vermont and the Brattleboro Housing Authority, and he plans to discuss options with both groups moving forward. He said he will also consider whether renting space in the building is a viable option for the town and how space could be optimized. A professional will be hired to assist in those determinations.
Bob Audette can be contacted at 802-254-2311, ext. 160.