181108-news-firestation

Newton’s new fire station has more room to accommodate fire trucks, but its sprinkler system is not yet fully operational.

NEWTON — The sprinkler system in the town’s new $1.6 million fire station doesn’t meet code, but that didn’t stop fire and rescue personnel from moving into the building this week.

The station was given a temporary occupancy permit to open despite some outstanding issues that include a sprinkler system installed on the apparatus side of the building that has no pump to supply the water.

According to Fire Chief John Alcaidinho, the sprinklers in the administrative area were installed and connected to two water tanks, but the ones in the section that houses the vehicles can only be used if the system is hooked up to a fire truck to pump water.

Alcaidinho said the original thought was to hold off on connecting the sprinkler to the cistern because Unitil is expected to upgrade to three-phase electrical lines on Merrimac Road at some point in the future and the improvement would determine the type of pump system needed.

“It would be more cost-effective with a three-phased system than to try to do it now. Everybody knew it had to be done. The only reason it wasn’t done in the beginning was because it was a cost factor,” he said.

Alcaidinho said it would be less expensive to install a system with a three-phase electric motor versus a diesel-powered fire pump.

Alcaidinho said there was discussion about requesting a variance from the state Fire Marshal’s office to give the fire department more time to bring the sprinkler system up to code, but the town will now move ahead with a plan to install the diesel-powered pump that will feed the sprinklers with water from a cistern in the ground.

It’s expected to be up and running by next August. Michael Pivero, the project’s construction manager and also the town’s road agent, told selectmen last week that it could cost as much as $150,000 to get the entire sprinkler system fully operational.

While officials address the sprinkler issue, fire and rescue personnel spent the week settling into their new digs. Alcaidinho said the station, which is more than 8,000 square feet, is larger than the old station and more energy efficient.

The station is expected to have plenty of room to accommodate the chief, who is part-time, the 28 call firefighters, and the two EMTs on staff during the day.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Alcaidinho said.

rockinghamnews@unionleader.com