Rochester Looks at Fire, Police Wish Lists

            The committee charged with studying the feasibility of replacing or rehabbing the town’s public-safety buildings met with study consultant Ted Galante on Tuesday afternoon to exchange ideas on viable options.

            Galante began the meeting by handing out copies of the wish-list books that have compiled what both Fire Chief Scott Weigel and Police Chief Robert Small want and need in a new or renovated facility. He then reviewed the options with Public Safety Building Feasibility Study Committee members and asked for their feedback.

            The two chiefs, he said, would each like 27,000 square feet of space for their departments. So a combined facility would need to be between 30,000 and 35,000 square feet or, he said, around 3 acres.

“How do we start to home in on a site that works for both?” Galante asked.

            Galante wanted to know what land in town would be available and viable as the site of a new combined facility or renovated station. The viability of a site will include how far it sits from where emergency vehicles must travel to get to an emergency.

            Weigel noted his is a call department so his responders will travel from the station closest to the emergency, Station 1 on Ryder Lane or Station 2 on Pine Street. He said he would like to keep his headquarters at Station One.

            As to the fate of the current police station on Dexter Lane, Galante asked, “How will the town react to decommissioning a 20-year-old building?”

            “Is renovation of the existing building feasible?” asked Public Safety Building Feasibility Study Committee member and Select Board member Brad Morse.

            “We haven’t done that study yet,” Galante replied.

            Committee members believe a renovation can expand into land behind the current police station. What if that includes adding a Fire Department facility? There are park lands and a vacant lot next to the current police station, committee and Planning Board Chairman Arnold Johnson said. But, he added, much of the land in question is owned by the Park Department, complicating availability.

            Committee members focused their interest on sites on Pine Street. Citing the abutting Rochester Memorial School playground, Town Administrator Glenn Cannon asked if it could be moved for an expansion of Fire Station 3. He also noted the 18-acre site of the Rochester Country Fair, 65 Pine Street, is town-owned.

            Finance Committee Chairman David Arancio, appearing on Zoom, asked about what will affect his committee’s perspective the most: What is the average construction cost per square feet for a public-safety building?

            Adding in the “soft” costs involved in such a large project, he anticipates the cost will be closer to $900 per square foot. He added that he is concerned what effects this project will have on the town’s long-term debt. Galante said he won’t sugarcoat the costs involved. “The numbers are scary,” he said.

            Arancio then asked if the committee has done a walk-through of similar public-safety buildings that house fire and police departments. Johnson said the committee will do so once it decides to go in the combined direction. Galante said he will schedule his own tour of the town’s existing public-safety facilities next week and will review more of the committee’s feedback at the next meeting.

            The next meeting of the Public Safety Building Feasibility Study Committee is scheduled for Tuesday, February 7, at 2:30 pm in the Town Hall meeting room, 1 Constitution Way, Rochester.

Rochester Public Safety Building Feasibility Study Committee

By Michael J. DeCicco

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