AYER — After eight years of support that made the new Fire Station on West Main Street a reality, residents got a close look at the end result during a special open house and dedication ceremony.
Over 150 area residents and firefighters turned up for the Aug. 6 ceremony and tours, which fire Chief Paul Fillebrown said have been much in demand since the $7 million station opened in June.
“We have been inundated with requests from taxpayers and fellow chiefs,” he said. “Everyone wants to see this station.”
The response to the tours was positive. While youngsters almost invariably gravitated to fire engines in the garage, many residents toured the offices and expanded living area for the full-time firefighters.
Having seen both the new and old stations, Ayer resident Jessica Madigan said the firefighters deserve it.
“The Fire Department has come to my house a few times because of alarm problems,” she said. “They deserve a bit more room. It’s nice to see.”
Firefighter Richard “Dick” Powderly has been with the Harvard Department for 40 years, but was taken aback by the tour nonetheless.
“I’m overwhelmed with how nice it is,” he said. “This town is going to be thankful for this in 50 years. It’s that nice. I’m envious.”
Powderly was on hand with former Harvard fire chief Peter Warren, who presented a large electric clock to the department as a housewarming gift.
The gift was presented during the dedication ceremony. The Ayer department had given a similar pieces when new Harvard stations opened in 1935 and 1974, he said, and they were there to return the favor.
Selectman Pauline Conley spoke of more recent history when representing her board during the dedication. She talked of the cramped quarters, outdated plumbing and prevailing fuel fumes in the old station as making it obsolete even if everyone didn’t always agree it was.
“No one who has ever been inside the old station would say a new one wasn’t desperately needed,” she said. “ Although the project was controversial from the outset, let us now see it as a symbol of how we can work together through very difficult circumstances to accomplish a positive result that benefits the town and those who serve it with unwavering commitment.”
In an interview before the ceremony, Fillebrown confirmed the prior location’s limitations.
“We had a 1935 building,” he said. “We tried to update it, but we couldn’t do it because of the lack of space.”
Speaking to the assembly, former fire chief and Building Committee Chairman Wellman Parker outlined the steps since 1998 that made the building happen including two town meeting appropriations that funded the project. With the facility now complete, he was even able to quip about the original August completion date in 2005.
“I was right there,” he said. “I just didn’t have the year correct.”
In all seriousness, Fillebrown gave his predecessor much of the credit.
“He thought he was off the hook when he retired. He was an (important) part of the committee,” he said. “ The committee did a lot of hard work and meetings. I can’t thank them enough.”
The dedication also featured a prayer from the department’s honorary chaplain, the Rev. Phillip Goff. Having served on the Library Building Committee several years ago, Goff could identify with the elation of bringing such a project to fruition as well as what it means to the community.
“It’s just a wonderful day for the department and the town,” he said. “It was a long time coming. It takes thousands of hours and dedication to make it happen.”