Durham explores new public safety complex

Durham explores new public safety complex

reporter photo

Leaders of local emergency response teams are mostly expressing satisfaction over the town’s current proposal to build a new public safety complex around the fire station on Main Street. 

The proposal includes an addition to the firehouse – with at least one new bay and three new rooms – and full renovations to two vacant residential buildings into office and storage spaces. The plan also calls for construction of a carriage house with three bays and an addition to one of the residential buildings. The cost is estimated at around $7 million.

“It is a project that is intended to renovate both (residential) buildings, bring them back to their historical nature and adaptive-reuse,” said architect David Stein during a public meeting Thursday night, Jan. 24 at the fire station.

Residents were given a history of the project, which started in 2009. The topic was put aside for a few years, but has resurfaced since Durham Manufacturing recently made an offer to buy 205 Main St., the current home of the town’s ambulance services, from the town. Durham Manufacturing’s main facility is located just behind the ambulance service building.

The preliminary proposal encompasses plans for the firehouse at 41 Main St., as well as two town-owned properties directly north and south of it, 37 and 51 Main St. Both abutting properties acquired by the town in the mid-90s for expansion. Both currently have vacant residential structures.

The main goal of the project is to provide office and storage space to accommodate all public safety services in a central campus. These include the fire department, ambulance services and emergency management, animal control, the resident state police trooper and Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART). The fire marshal would likely stay in an office in town hall, according to First Selectman Laura Francis.

The town also has to work around certain challenges that come with the parcels, including historic district regulations, the need for a new septic tank and wetlands. 

During public comment Jan. 24, some residents raised potential cost savings by tearing down the residential buildings, instead of renovating them.

Stein, who is with Silver-Petrucelli & Associates, said renovating the buildings is more expensive than rebuilding given their current conditions. 

When the town acquired the residential structures, a plan to demolish them was denied by the historic preservation commission. 

Twitter: @baileyfaywright


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