Wilton board asks, is it time to upgrade fire station?

WILTON – Fire Chief Ray Dick is emphatic that this is the year to finally upgrade the fire station on Main Street.

“It’s no longer on the wish list,” he said. “We need it.”

On the other hand, need is facing economic reality.

“With the economy the way it is, this might not be a good time,” Selectman Richard Rockwood said last week.

>>Town Meeting ‘09<< Selectmen will host an informational hearing to discuss the question tonight at 7:30 at the fire station. "We want public input," Rockwood said. "What do they (the fire department) need, and is this time to do something?" While the department has talked with an architect and developed a general plan, no cost has been estimated at this point. "We're looking at options," Dick said. There is currently about $500,000 in a building fund, Dick said, "and we think that could be used to cover the first few bond payments." Rockwood said one option would be to use just the money in the building fund for an upgrade. The current fire station, the fourth since the department was founded in 1874, was dedicated on Aug. 30, 1959. The exterior has not changed except for some new doors. A lot of the interior is original as well, Dick said, pointing out the heating and lighting systems, bathroom facilities and kitchen cabinets. One of the fire trucks from 1959 is also still there. "Just changing the lighting could save us half of the light bill," Dick said. In the past 50 years, fire trucks have gotten bigger and more sophisticated. One bay had to be enlarged, made higher and longer, to accommodate a ladder truck. A rescue truck and a forest fire truck have been added to the department over the years, as well. "We aren't looking for the Taj Mahal," Dick said during a recent tour of the building. The plan is to add three bays, a couple of offices, a gear room, and two bathrooms with showers. Space in the bays is so cramped, Dick demonstrated, that when two trucks are parked side by side, "you can't open both doors at once." To remove the rescue vehicle, another truck has to be moved first since the two smallest vehicles are in the same bay, one at a slight angle. Should the department's rescue boat be needed, a truck would have to be taken out to get it down from its wall hanger. The forestry truck is stored at the highway department. For the past 15 years or so, residents have been talking about building a new fire station or upgrading the present one. There have been several study committees and as many plans. For years, townspeople have set aside money each year for the project. A few years ago, a plan was presented to build one facility for fire and police. Neither agency liked the plan, and the funds were used to build the present police station.