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Hudson selectmen mull fire station's shortcomings

HUDSON — Although the Hudson Fire Department began staffing its two former call fire stations full time, selectmen wonder if that will be enough to address the department’s facility shortfalls.

During Tuesday night’s meeting, board members debated the possibility of bringing a proposal before voters in the coming years to either remodel the existing Lenny Smith Central Fire station on Library Street or build a new facility at a different location.

Both the Burns Hill Road and Robinson Road fire stations, which were previously staffed only during limited hours, were transitioned to full-time facilities on Aug. 1.

This week, Fire Chief Robert Buxton told selectmen that Hudson’s main fire station has undergone a variety of repairs in recent years, but that the facility is more than 60 years old. While it is structurally sound, it does not meet national standards.

Over the past year, the aging building has had to have its heating system replaced, and a new generator was be installed in 2012.

“But picking things off our wish list when they break isn’t the best plan,” Buxton said. “If this building was built today, we’d be expected to have two egresses off the second floor rather than one. Right now we’re enforcing a life safety code when our own building doesn’t meet the life safety code.”

A recent space needs analysis study suggested the need for a 23,000-square-foot facility, more than twice the size of Central Fire Station.

The fire chief said a new facility that size could cost up to $6 million. A less costly option would be to renovate and expand Central Fire Station, which would cost about half the price of a new building.

Either way, town officials agreed funding such a project would be a challenge, one that local voters have historically nixed.

“When we talk about our infrastructure, Central Station is just the tip of the iceberg,” Buxton said. “The truth is, our other facilities were built for an on-call environment.”

Selectmen Chairman Roger Coutu and Rick Maddox visited Central Station last weekend.

“We began discussing alternatives and which direction the board would like to go,” Coutu said. “I do think we need to have a lot of healthy discussion about this. We also need to start taking care of the buildings we have before we start expanding.”

Board member Patricia Nichols said she felt firefighters “just cannot function” in their current habitat, but said there’s no easy solution.

“I’m hesitant about razing that building or building a new one on-site or at a different location,” Nichols said.

The board voted unanimously to allow the town’s engineering and assessing departments to begin the process of researching facility options in greater detail.

Further discussion on Hudson’s fire facilities will take place at the Sept. 8 selectmen meeting.

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