The town of Orrington held a ceremonial groundbreaking on Tuesday to mark the start of construction of the town's new $2.85 million public safety building.

The town of Orrington has finally started construction on a $2.85 million public safety building to replace the one that the town’s firefighters have used since the 1950s.

During a ceremonial groundbreaking Tuesday morning, local officials thanked the public for its support of the project, which voters approved in July after rejecting a more expensive plan that had divided the 3,700-person community.

They began the ceremony with a brief moment of silence to honor Capt. Michael Bell, the Farmington firefighter who was killed Monday after a building exploded while his department was responding to an apparent propane leak. Seven others were injured in the explosion, including six firefighters and a building manager.

“Those types of calls are routine calls for Any-Fire-Department, USA,” Assistant Fire Chief Chad Bean said before the ceremony. “They’ve been to probably hundreds of those types of calls. It’s absolutely devastating. We’re thinking of the Farmington Fire Department.”

[Orrington voters overwhelmingly endorse new public safety building]

“They’ll be in our hearts for the coming weeks and months,” Fire Chief Scott Stewart said.

Stewart said that Orrington’s new, 10,000-foot public safety building will probably open early June 2020 at town property on the corner of Tupper and Center drives, in front of the entrance to DR Disc Golf.

It will be a safer workplace than the current public safety building, which is just to the west of the building site and has become cold, leaky and run down over its more than 50 years in service, according to Stewart.

“It’s been a long process,” he said.

An earlier proposal to build a $3.5 million public safety building was rejected by Orrington voters at the end of 2018. The issue became something of a lightning rod for Orrington residents, setting off a series of other disputes about the management of the town.