Fire Station No. 2 project faces water, septic and expansion problems
During his facilities project update at the Board of Finance’s July 19 meeting, Facilities and Energy Management Director Chris Burney said the renovation and restoration of Fire Station No. 2 at 707 Ridgefield Road is faced with three problem areas — water, septic and expansion.
“We need to look at: Can we find the water? If we can find the water, can we get rid of the waste?” said Burney. “And then what are we going to do with the building? Does it need to be expanded?”
There is an appropriation to fund design studies for the building this year, said Burney, but “the design of the renovation and restoration has become a little slow because we’re struggling with the ability to get potable water for the firehouse.”
When the Fire Station No. 2 Building Committee started discussing options for the station, Burney said, ensuring “an adequate supply of clean water for the firefighters” was a top priority.
The well at the fire station was declared contaminated about 10 years ago, said Burney, and water is currently brought to the station in two large containers for drinking, washing and cooking.
“The committee directed me to investigate the potential for potable water on two sites across the road,” said Burney. “We have engaged a local company and they’re actually going out in the field ... to try and find previously dug wells on those two properties.”
If wells are found, Burney said, “we can pump them out and see if the water’s good enough to drink and use [and if it] needs a certain amount of treatment.”
A waterline would need to cross the street in order to use the wells, said Burney. He said that has already been cleared with the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority and Department of Transportation and “does not pose a significant problem in terms of paperwork and approval.”
Burney said there are also problems with the station’s septic system, which is an above-ground system with “very limited capacity.”
As a result, no more than three people can occupy the building at one time.
“We’re talking to an engineering company to investigate the septic,” said Burney, who has held off spending money on septic until the water problem has been resolved. “If we don’t have water coming in, we don’t need septic going out.”
Due to changes in the Connecticut building code over the years — “with particular reference to seismic resistance” — the fire station cannot be increased in height “without some severe limitations on what we can do,” said Burney.
“We have to reinforce the entire building and foundation to today’s code, and that would be quite expensive,” said Burney.
“We haven’t investigated that in terms of a contract [but] I have talked to some structural engineers and based on their input and my background, we know that that’s an issue.”
Extending the building’s width, rather than height, would require a variance from the Planning and Zoning Commission, said Burney.
Burney said the building committee is also looking into the volume of calls the Ridgefield Road fire station receives.
“The fire department provided a lot of data on the number of calls being made from that facility, and it’s not busy,” said Burney, adding that the volume coming out of the building would “probably be difficult to justify a significant expansion of its service.”
With new apparatus coming in with higher clearance requirements, Burney said, there is a desire among committee members to raise the doors in the building.
“Without doing a constructional analysis,” he said, “I think that’s possible.”
Burney said the building committee also talked to the Wilton Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) about stationing some equipment at the firehouse.
“Their response, at the end of the day, was, ‘It’s not really where we want to be, but we could do it if we had to,’” he said.
“That’s hardly an enthusiastic response and everybody agreed, including CERT, that there was no justification to spend money on their behalf on this station.”
In response to Board of Finance Chair Jeff Rutishauser’s inquiry about the need for a station in the area, Burney said the building committee “feels strongly that there is a need for its presence.”
Compared to those coming from the Danbury Road fire station, said Burney, firefighters from Fire Station No. 2 could reach a house fire in North Wilton seven to ten minutes faster.
The next Fire Station No. 2 Building Committee meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 2, 7:30 p.m., at Comstock Community Center.