Downtown Wilmington. (Chris Mays/Reformer file photo)
Downtown Wilmington. (Chris Mays/Reformer file photo)

WILMINGTON -- There are four sites deemed worthy for the potential co-relocation of the Police and Fire Departments. And it could end up that only one department relocates.

"The purpose of the planning grant was to determine the best site. The decision of the best site is what we're looking to get out of this study," said Wilmington Town Manager Scott Murphy. "I had hoped that we could start to prioritize some these concerns and help funnel towards a clear, decisive site. That's the hopeful outcome of this."

On Feb. 19, the Selectboard heard from the Bread Loaf Corporation, which was hired to conduct a feasibility study after the town received a Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery Grant. Bread Loaf specializes in architecture, planning and building.

Its architecture operations manager, Chris Huston, and project architect, Jan Becker, reported their findings. They had met with Fire Chief Ken March and Police Chief Joe Szarejko in the past few months.

"Flow and circulation," said Huston. "That is one of the most important aspects of these facilities."

He wanted town officials to look for constraints and opportunities in each of the options.

"When we work on studies such as this we're not going into it with a preconceived notion of what the best site is," said Huston.

The options included the Green Mountain Power building on Haystack Road, the former WW Supply building on West Main Street, the former Town Garage on Beaver Street and a Route 100 South site near the Deerfield Valley Health Center.

The group determined that the Green Mountain Power building behind Vermont Bowl Company was no longer available as well as the East Main Street site that now houses the Family Dollar. It also stated that an old winery building on Route 100 east was not suitable for the proposed uses.

The Fire Department needs at least 10,500 square feet for its operations while the Police Department would need about half that space.

"As we looked at each site, we went with the same assumption of size unless there was reason not to," said Becker.

She mentioned that the projected budget for each option included testing, architectural fees, utilities, telephone, data, moving and more.

"We have a good idea of what they cost," she added.

The Haystack Road site was projected to cost $4,890,000, while the West Main Street site was projected to cost $3,589,000. The Beaver Street site was projected to cost $4,787,000. The most expensive option was the Route 100 South site, which was projected to cost $5,345,000.

Selectboard member Jake White had inquired about whether traffic studies had been done, but no analysis of the kind was conducted.

"I wish it was part of the scope of the project," said March. "(It) would have looked a lot different."

He cited concerns with the West Main Street site, which would present difficulties for his department during high traffic or even medium traffic times.

"We brought these things forward a number of times and nothing changed," added March.

In response, Murphy said the distance from the site would be important and would weigh heavily on the eventual decision. Szarejko mentioned that any of the sites would be suitable for his department.

One firefighter weighed in, saying that response time is how they save lives.

Selectboard member Diane Chapman asked about the Twin Valley High School building, which will soon be vacant as students will be going to the Whitingham site currently being developed. Huston, who will be working on a similar study for the use of that building, said that it is a large building. It would be bigger than what both departments need so it likely would need to be shared with other organizations.

"It's just not functional for us and it's up a hill. Access would be harder for emergency vehicles," said Szarejko.

Before the discussion ended, Murphy gave an example of how the study may benefit the town.

"It may be that the best possible site is the old Town Garage site but not as a co-relocation," he said. "It may be a great site but we can't squeeze both facilities."

Ultimately, the Selectboard will decide which site would be best. Bread Loaf was asked to continue narrowing down options and to follow up with both chiefs. There are still funds left for more services within the scope of the project.

"This was a very minimal amount of the grant," said Murphy. "We have more room to expand."

Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or cmays@reformer.com. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.