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GROTON — Supporters of a new Center Fire Station ran into unexpected resistance to the proposal when Town Manager Mark Haddad found himself defending the size and cost of the planned facility to key members of the Finance Committee.

The unplanned exchange broke out at last Tuesday night’s meeting of the Finance Committee, which had opened with a review by Haddad of his five-year budget plan for the town but veered off course after he brought up a public hearing on the proposed fire station that had been scheduled for last Wednesday.

The discussion was opened by committee member Robert Hargraves, who wanted to know why certain features such as a recreation room proposed for the new fire station duplicated the one already in existence at the Lost Lake station.

Had anyone on the Center Fire Station Building Committee looked at how costs could be cut down by eliminating such redundancies?

Haddad replied that indeed, the committee had considered such questions and decided that it would defeat the purpose of building the new station if firemen had to cross town to use recreation facilities and not be immediately available in case of emergencies at the new station.

Hargraves characterized the Lost Lake Station as a “dust collector” that often went unused but the town manager demurred, saying that according to fire chief Joseph Bosselait, the recreation room was often used by residents for gatherings such as birthday parties.

Persisting, Hargraves next asked about elaborate training facilities being included in the new facility, including a three-story tower that had since been reduced to two stories. Was it all necessary when training facilities were available for free in Stow where Groton firemen were going already?

The former state representative was told that having complete training facilities in house would be more efficient with Board of Selectmen member Anna Eliot adding that many other towns were including such features in their buildings as well.

Finance Committee Chairman Jay Prager, however, joined Hargraves’ skepticism questioning the need for a “perfect” fire station and mused whether an “almost perfect” but less costly building would be just as good. After all, when the former Sacred Heart Church property on Main Street was being considered, Fire Department officials expressed enthusiasm for that site, which would have resulted in a smaller and cheaper building.

Haddad replied that if a building had been constructed there, it would have ended up being taller to make room for all the elements the Fire Department felt a state-of-the-art facility ought to have.

Earlier in the year, the Board of Selectmen was given authorization by residents at annual Town Meeting to enter purchase negotiations with the Lawrence Homestead Trust, owners of the Farmers Row property chosen as the best site for a new Center Fire Station.

Cost of the 2.7-acre parcel, which is located along one of the town’s most scenic drives, has been set at $350,000 with a final price tag for the fire station building itself estimated at $8 million.

As proposed, the new fire station is to include a four-bay garage and three-story administration complex with offices on the first floor, fitness room, dormitory, kitchen, dining room, and day room planned for the second floor, and HVAC and other mechanical equipment to be placed in the third floor.

It is the extras located on the second floor of the proposed structure that had some members of the Finance Committee and the community wondering about the need for the 18,500-square-foot structure, one that architect Donald Walters admitted at a recent public hearing was “a big building.”

Concerned at the cost of the proposed station, Prager noted that if the current building was black and its proposed replacement was white, might there be something else amid the shades of gray between the two extremes that would satisfy the requirements of the Fire Department while saving the town money?

Unable to satisfy committee members’ uncertainties, Haddad was forced to repeatedly invite them to attend Wednesday’s public hearing on the fire station issue, where their questions could be properly addressed.

Residents are expected to register their attitude toward plans for the new fire station at the upcoming fall Town Meeting, when they will be asked to vote on a pair of measures related to the issue, including extension of the sewer district to cover the Farmer’s Row property and altering zoning in the area to allow for a municipal structure.