Orrington officials are looking to build a new $3.5 million public safety building, which would combine the now separate police and fire department buildings, both of which are riddled with health hazards and code violations, officials said.
“I don’t know how we haven’t gotten fined before now for not having ADA accessibility,” police Chief Jon Carson said of his department’s building at 255 Center Drive.
The proposed 13,000-square-foot new public safety building would be built at the corner of Center and Tupper drives, and would have no impact on the tax rate, as no outside money would have to be borrowed for its construction. Funding would be allocated from existing accounts, interim Town Manager Andy Fish said.
Town officials “were very frugal, and they prepared ahead for events like this,” he said of the plan, which has been in the works for the past five years. The town of Orrington owns the land where it would be built.
Voters later this month will decide whether to authorize construction of the project, which requires allocating $3.5 million from the town’s combined municipal building reserve account, the tax increment financing account and undesignated fund balance, Fish said.
The current fire and rescue building, at 14 Johnson Mill Road, was built in the mid-1950s, and the police department was built in the late 1980s. Over the years, cramped spaces in the 5,000-square-foot fire station and 2,500-square foot police station have prevented both from accommodating either department’s evolving needs, Ellen Angel, senior architect with Ames and Associates and part of the architectural design team behind the new building, said Wednesday.
Nine employees work in the two-story police station, which was initially built as a storage barn for the town’s ambulances before police took it over in 2005. The building’s staircases and railings aren’t up to code, and there’s only one exit from the second floor, where Chief Jon Carson’s office is.
“If you’re in my office, and there’s ever a fire in the wash bay or boiler room, I’d have to go out the window, and I don’t know if I can get out that window,” said Carson, who has been chief for 16 years.
Neither building is ADA accessible, and both present serious code violations, various town officials have said.
In the fire station, for example, there’s no fire sprinkler system and the garage doors are not large enough to properly accommodate emergency vehicles, according to town documents. The bay where trucks are stored is insufficient in both size and ventilation, making it difficult to complete vehicle maintenance. There’s also no ventilation or space between where firefighters wash their contaminated suits, and their in-house workspace and living quarters. This exacerbates firefighters’ already heightened risk of cancer from frequent exposure to toxic chemicals, Angel said.
Beyond the code violations, both buildings are filled to capacity, and then some.
“If we ever wanted to become a full-time, 24-hour police department, there’s no place to store evidence, there’s no weapon storage, the locker room is inadequate,” Carson said. “This building doesn’t leave us any opportunity to grow. If it’s not approved, we would definitely have to do something else.”
Another informational meeting will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 16, in the Center Drive School cafeteria. Residents will vote on the proposal in a special meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 25, in the cafeteria.
Follow the Bangor Daily News on Facebook for the latest Maine news.