TOWNSEND -- An unusual thing happened at the Board of Selectmen meeting Aug. 12. The room burst into spontaneous applause.
Thanks to an anonymous donor, the town will have a new fire station -- with any luck, within a year.
The Fire Department uses three buildings in the center of town. The headquarters building at 13 Elm St., originally built as residential/commercial space, will be razed. The building was purchased in 2002 with the intention of locating a fire station at the site, said Town Administrator Andy Sheehan.
The department will be able to function during the construction project, Chief Mark Boynton said. Only one ambulance and an all-terrain vehicle are stored at the headquarters. The department will operate from trailers.
An 1875 firehouse on the other side of Elm Street will no longer be used when the new station is complete, Sheehan said.
The third Fire Department building in the center is a garage that opens into the parking lot behind Memorial Hall. The department may continue to store equipment there and the town might use some of the space, Sheehan said.
The construction schedule is aggressive, he said. Before winter sets in, the current headquarters should be gone, the foundation poured and steel beams installed.
The location in the center of town provides good access to Routes 119 and 13.
The town is looking at the intersection and will discuss safety with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.
The fire station in Townsend Harbor, opened in 2004 and serving the east side of town, will remain as is.
An earlier plan to build one 22,000-square-foot station on Scales Lane to replace the buildings in the center and the West Townsend station is no longer in play, said Boynton.
The Fire Station Building Committee requested $11.3 million to purchase land and build the single station during the May 6 annual Town Meeting. Voters did not approve the request.
The new building will be between 10,000 and 12,000 square feet, Boynton said.
The Building Committee will redirect its efforts toward replacing the West Townsend station, he said. The station, also built in 1875, cannot accommodate today's larger equipment.
One option the committee might consider would be to purchase the property owned by the American Legion and build there, he said.
A new building on the west side of town would add another 6,000 square feet or more for the Fire Department to use. It would be a separate project, not part of the station in the center.
"Since the spring Town Meeting, we have been trying to figure out how and where we would build a new Fire-EMS headquarters station," Sheehan said. "This offer solves that."
"The generosity of the donor is quite breathtaking," he said.
Boynton also considers the gift to be extraordinary.
"The members of the Fire-EMS Department are ecstatic about the generous donation," he said. "The donation allows us to focus our attention on developing and advancing the department rather than addressing our physical needs and challenges. I feel pretty lucky to be the chief of the department during such a pivotal time."