HALLOWELL – City council voted on Monday to keep the nearly 200-year-old fire station under city ownership as authorities reflect on future uses of the historic space.
The council motion also included: let the pantry stay, move the police department into the building, explore other uses, and task the property committee to work out the details of future plans for the building’s renovation.
The Fire Hall was built in 1828 and served as Hallowell’s Town Hall until 1899 when Town Hall was built.
The fire department moved into the building in 1990 and then moved to Stevens Commons in 2018. Since then, city officials have discussed moving the police department into the building while keeping the Hallowell Food Pantry under. -ground. Although a formal decision has not yet been made on the remaining space, the ideas put forward have also included a space for apartments or a museum.
At the end of last year, the city heard a presentation from representatives of Artifex Architects & Engineers of Bangor, in which they presented a conceptual concept for the renovation of the building intended to house the police station, which is located currently in the basement of the town hall.
The engineers’ proposal would cost around $ 3.2 million and involve updating the building to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and moving the department from an 800 square foot space to a space of 4,000 square feet.
Councilors were divided over the proposal, and Mayor George Lapointe said he felt the expansion was too big given the department has five full-time officers, including Police Chief Scott MacMaster.
Before making decisions about redesign and renovations; however, officials had to decide whether or not to keep the building under city ownership. The Hallowell Food Pantry, for example, would have difficulty planning for the future without knowing whether the building would remain in city hands.
During a workshop in December, the majority of councilors spoke in favor of keeping the historic building, with councilor Diana Scully hoping to keep the building and complete the proposed renovations in time for its 200th anniversary.
Councilor Patrick Wynne, at the workshop last month, said he supported the sale of the building and the creation of a new facility specifically designed for the police department. And on Monday, Wynne abstained from voting on the multi-part motion to keep the building.
“I continue to believe, for the reasons I have stated in previous meetings, that divestiture is the best position for this building,” said Wynne. “However, if we maintain it, I fully commit to working with the board to achieve the best possible result.”
Ahead of the vote, resident Roger Pomerleau, who also sits on the Hallowell Citizens’ Initiative Committee, which works to preserve the building, said he supports the motion.
“I know it’s like a living thing, and it’s going to evolve, but it’s a start,” he said. “So I’m in favor of a momentum, and I think that gives you direction.”
With Wynne abstaining, all councilors present voted in favor of the motion.
Going forward, the property committee will discuss the building and renovations further and report to city council.
“I think this is an important first step,” Lapointe said after the vote. “One step among many, and we’re going to have to boil the pot on that to make sure we take these steps in a timely manner.”
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