WESTMORELAND — Firefighters are pushing for voters to approve a new fire station at Westmoreland’s town meeting next month, saying they need a more modern space.
An assessment by Scully Architects of Keene a few years ago determined it would be best, financially, to build a new station rather than updating Westmoreland’s current station, according to firefighter Tom Finnegan.
Built in 1954, the station’s biggest issues — according to a mailer the department recently sent to residents about the project — include its close proximity to Route 63, making it hard to park trucks in front of the building without the vehicles sticking into the road, and difficult to safely turn onto the road quickly. The 3,650 square-foot station’s doors are also shorter than standard truck models, requiring the department to custom-order trucks, and the building has accessibility issues and lacks sufficient storage space for new equipment.
The station, to be paid for using a $2,272,500 bond, is backed by the selectboard and budget committee, according to the warrant.
“There’s absolutely no question that this project needs to be done,” said Clayton Stalker, a selectboard member.
Westmoreland is offering in-person and drive-thru voting on March 10. The fire station proposal needs a three-fifths supermajority to pass.
The proposed 6,400 square-foot station would be built on town-owned land behind town hall, said Finnegan, who is chairman of an advisory committee formed by the town to oversee the development of a new station.
The biggest change, aside from location, would be the implementation of “cold,” “warm” and “hot” zones, which are important for protecting the health and safety of first responders, according to Finnegan.
The different sections allow for firefighters to clean their gear of contaminants in the hot zone before storing their equipment in the warm zone, and then heading into the cold zone, where public and administrative areas are.
The fire department’s mailer explains that when a building burns, potentially harmful contaminants gather on firefighters’ gear. By having the different zones, firefighters can clean themselves and their gear so they don’t further spread those toxins.
The department has six fire trucks and about 23 firefighters, Finnegan said.
Stalker, of the selectboard, said that while he understands this is a big investment for the town, it’s a necessity that will only get more expensive over time.
“The cost of building this station is only going to go up in years to come,” he said, “and we hope that the townspeople just bite the bullet and realize it’s the best course of action for the town.”
Additional information about the fire station proposal is available on the town’s website at https://westmorelandnh.com