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PFD can now picture the future in a new fire station

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PFD can now picture the future in a new fire station

By Conan de Vries

PRESCOTT - The firefighters who protect the Town of Prescott now have some idea what their eventual new home is going to look like.

At a regular meeting of Prescott's Committee of the Whole Monday night, CAO Pierre Mercier and Prescott Fire Chief Barry Moorhouse provided an overview of the initial plans for the town's new fire station, an overview that also included some preliminary architectural renderings of the new building.

The proposed 14,000 square foot, one-storey building to be constructed on Henry Street West right next to the existing fire hall, will feature six spacious bays for the fire trucks, up from the three smaller spots the firefighters now have to contend with, and an administrative area about the same size as in the current building.

The present fire station, which was built in the mid-1960s and is buckling under nearly 50 years of heavy use, is 11,400 square feet in size and is proving an awkward fit as the headquarters of a modern, 21st-century fire department.

Moorhouse discussed the myriad regulations and standards, both specific to the fire department and more generally applicable to public buildings and places of work, that the current building fails to meet but which the new one will satisfy. Many of the features included in the new building plans, from storage spaces to laundry and shower facilities, will ensure the fire hall complies with provincial regulations.

More than meeting government guidelines, though, the fire hall will also better serve the Prescott Fire Department. Since the current fire hall was built, fire trucks have increased in size, and there isn't enough room at the present site to house all of the department's vehicles. And getting the trucks, particularly the large pumper and aerial trucks, out of the snug bays is another challenge, particularly in an emergency.

"I'd rather not have to come to council with a $100,000 expense, because the bucket is laying in the street," said Moorhouse, noting that the aerial truck, with its attached bucket, is particularly difficult to extricate from the bays.

There were some questions as to whether or not the fire hall really needs six bays, but Moorhouse explained that though the fire department doesn't at present need that many, the new fire hall is intended to serve the town for the next five or six decades, when the extra space might be of value.

"The trucks get bigger and I hope in the future the town will grow and you'll need that capacity," he said.

Not only will the new building be purpose-built to meet all the needs of a modern fire department, it will also meet post-disaster building standards, meaning the new fire hall will be able to serve as a central communications hub in the event of a town-wide calamity. Nevertheless, the building is not extravagant.

"There's really nothing in terms of frills," said Councilor Ray Young.

The fire chief agreed.

"This is a very basic fire hall that meets requirements," said Moorhouse.

Council also received a preliminary estimate on the total cost of the new fire hall, which will come in at around $4.5 million. And additional $390,000 was spent to purchase and tear down the three houses that occupied the land upon which the new building will be constructed.

The town will have to borrow money to cover the cost of the project, but Mayor Brett Todd made a point of reassuring the taxpaying public that the cost of the new fire hall will not result in a big sticker shock.

"This isn't something we're going to dump on the tax base all in one year," said Todd, adding that the town has been making financial plans to accommodate this expense for some time. "This has been a top priority for the town for the last several years."

There were a couple criticisms of the appearance of the building, Councilor Lee McConnell calling it "ugly" and some member of council agreeing that its modern look doesn't fit comfortably into the heritage feel of Prescott's downtown.

Nevertheless, council agreed that the building met all of the requirements it was intended to, and the fire chief expressed his satisfaction with the preliminary designs, so council approved the plan so far and authorized staff to move forward.

The next steps will include more detailed structural, mechanical, civil engineering and electrical plans and then tender pre-qualification some time in January with construction expected to begin in the late spring.

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