BREWER, Maine — Cpl. Roger Hershey said he won’t miss the water stains on the ceiling, bad air flow, mold or the smell of marijuana wafting in from the evidence room.
He was sitting at his desk in the city’s brand-new public safety building on Parkway South just after the building’s dedication on Friday, recalling his many years at the deteriorating South Main Street facility that the Police and Fire departments shared for the last 50 years.
“It’s kind of sad,” he said, adding he is elated to be in the department’s new home.
Brewer police Sgt. David Lord and Officer Elizabeth Kelley sat with Hershey reminiscing while the public, emergency responders from all over the region, city staff and others involved in the building’s construction toured the new $6.75 million facility.
Mayor Manley DeBeck kicked off the building dedication by saying that the new police and fire station is a “really, really big deal for us here in Brewer.” He was followed by the Rev. Roger Davis, the police chaplain, Matt Carter from WBRC Architects-Engineers of Bangor, Karl Ward, president and CEO of Nickerson & O’Day, Mike Aube from the USDA-Rural Development, Phil Pushard, president of the Maine State Troopers Association, City Engineer Frank Higgins, Police Chief Perry Antone and Fire Chief Rick Bronson.
“This building is such a leap forward from where we were,” the fire chief said.
The speakers thanked residents and the USDA for supplying the financing, and city staff and those working for the design-build team for their hard work over the last year and a half constructing the facility.
Around 30 firefighters stood at the back of the crowd gathered in front of the building, and another 20 police officers, and Mace, a police dog, stood off to the right of the group.
After the ribbon cutting, the group was led to the fire bays for the unveiling of two pieces of twisted steel salvaged from the debris of the fallen World Trade Center’s twin towers that will have a permanent home at the new station.
Brewer fire Capt. Brent Melvin, police Sgt. Rich Smith and Ward each spoke about the trip last week to get the historic steel. Afterward, lunch was served and tours of the building were given.
The event felt like a family reunion as firefighters and law enforcement officers from neighboring communities congratulated their Brewer counterparts, shaking hands and telling stories and jokes.
Firefighter Jason Chasse, who has worked for the department for the last 2½ years, with the last six months as a full-timer, said the new firetruck bays are almost twice as big as the entire building they occupied on South Main Street.
“It’s a huge step ahead,” he said, adding the new location near Interstate 395 and Wilson Street should help with response times.
His son, who was dressed up as a firefighter, and wife were at the event to support him and the department.
The new facility is actually two connected buildings — one that looks like an old Colonial home on the right side of the site, with three floors of shared office space for both departments, and a firehouse on the left with living space for firefighters on the second level.
“It’s exceeding the expectations we set,” Police Chief Antone said while he stopped for a second from walking through the building with his son. “It has a flow to it that is going to make it easier for them to do their jobs,” referring to both firefighters and police officers.
The building also includes common areas including a fitness room, a training room and conference rooms that both departments will use.
While those who risk their lives to serve the community are “ecstatic” about the new public safety building, a few will miss aspects of the old station.
“I grew up there,” said Lord, whose father was a Brewer police officer.
For those who missed Friday’s event, the building will open its doors to the public for tours 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, 1-3 p.m. Veterans Day, and 6-8 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 12.