TOWNSEND — From east to west, Townsend is bisected by the Squannacook. The three original villages spaced along the river, the Harbor in the east, the center and West Townsend are now one community, joined by Route 119.
For over 100 years, each section of town has a fire station. The Harbor station is the newest, replaced in 2003.
For several years, the talk in town was about building one new central station to replace both the center and West Townsend stations. Built 140 years ago, the stations are not big enough for modern equipment, say past and current fire chiefs.
In 2013, now-retired Chief Don Klein pushed for an $11 million station to be built on Scales Lane. It would have replaced the central and west stations with one facility.
The May 2014 town meeting said no, failing to come up with the two-thirds vote necessary to appropriate funds.
After this, an anonymous donor stepped forward to build a new center station. Site work was delayed because of the harsh winter, said Chief Mark Boynton, but things are moving along nicely now.
The department moved to temporary trailers while the work on Elm Street is under way. “It’s going well, the footings are in,” Boynton said.
The new center station did not address the needs of West Townsend. Once the new station was a go, the Fire Station Building Committee turned their efforts to the west.
Their newest plan, to build a new 3,650 square foot station housing two modern fire trucks, was funded at the May town meeting.
A flyer at the meeting broke the cost down. Purchasing the former American Legion Hall, doing asbestos remediation and removing the building comes to $159,000.
The design-build station costing $1 million will be built on that lot, according to the flyer.
Boynton was not sure how the building process will go. They are hoping to build on the Legion lot and then take down the 1875 fire station, allowing the equipment to remain in the building until the new one is finished.
The Legion Hall is in a state historic district. It was built in 1836 as the Townsend West Village Female Academy, called the seminary by locals.
Before the building can come down, said Building Inspector Rich Hanks, the town will need to go through a process. He does not know what the process with the state entails.
When the district was formed, building owners could opt out of joining the district, he said. The fire station is not on the state’s list of historic buildings.
Boynton said the building committee’s next step is to meet with the Historic Commission and then go out to bid.
The new building will likely have a wood frame, allowing it to fit in with the historic streetscape and keeping the cost down, the flyer said.
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