Revised plan for renovation & expansion of Laconia's Central Fire Station unveiled; estimate is $4.1M

LACONIA — With the renovation and expansion of Central Station next on the list of major capital projects, Fire Chief Ken Erickson and Deputy Chiefs Charles Roffo and Kirk Beattie presented a revised plan for improvements to the building to the City Council this week.

Roffo explained that the department proposes to renovate 13,135 square feet of the existing station to serve as an apparatus bay and training area and to construct a two-story, 12,000 square foot addition to house the administrative offices and dormitory. He estimated the cost of the project at $4,187,000, more than $777,000 less than the original plan prepared in 2008, but emphasized that because the estimate is based on a conceptual plan, not an engineered design, the figures could change.

Erickson said that because the department has reduced the size of its fleet and no longer houses a mechanic, the station, with the addition of one bay at the south end of the building where a driveway now leads to the rear parking lot, will accommodate all its apparatus. The new addition would have public access and parking off Tremont Street, eliminating vehicle and pedestrian traffic from the apron in front of the apparatus bay.

The wing would also house an emergency operations center that could double as a community room, which would qualify for a $150,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. With a pitched roof, topped by a cupola, Erickson said that the brick building would have an improved visual impact on the neighborhood.

Councilor Henry Lipman (Ward 3) asked why the department preferred to expand the station to house all its apparatus rather than continue to store vehicles at the Lakeport Station. Erickson explained that in an emergency firefighters have to fetch apparatus from Lakeport, which lengthens response times. "I have no use for that facility," he said of the Lakeport Station, which has been closed since 1982 and has not housed student firefighters for several years.

Erickson suggested the city sell the property.

"Let's not do it on the cheap," Councilor Bob Hamel (Ward 5), adding that another council should not be revisiting the shortcomings of the station in 15 years. "Make sure it is adequate for your mission," he said.

The Capital Improvements Program (CIP) Committee ranked improvements to the Central Fire Station ninth among capital projects to be undertaken in 2014-2015.

NOTES: The City Council formally accepted an easement granted by Mike McCarthy, owner of Faircourt Plaza Condominium at the corner of Fair Street and Court Street, for future improvements at the intersection. The easement consists of a strip approximately 148-feet long and five-feet wide along the east side of Fair Street and a triangle with sides of 25 feet at the junction with Court Street. Planning Director Shanna Saunders explained that the easement was granted when the Planning Board approved construction of the building that houses Advanced Auto Parts. She said that the Department of Public Works will conduct a traffic study at the intersection in anticipation of proposing measures to enhance safety. . . . . . The City Council also accepted the drape that hung in the Moulton Opera House as a gift to the city, which will be restored and displayed in the Laconia Public Library. The opera house was on the second and third floors of the block overlooking Bank Square at the corner of Main Street and Water Street, built in 1886 to house O'Shea's Department Store. The building was demolished in 1970 and the drape stored in a private home for more than 43 years. The drop curtain, a copy of John Antwerp's "Morning on the Nile" painted by Eugene Cramer in Columbia, South Carolina, depicts several dhows, one laden with camels, freight and passengers, plying the river beneath the rising sun with the great pyramids in the distance. Christine Hadsel, director of Curtains without Borders of Burlington, Vermont, called it "the most exquisite" in her experience of restoring more than 200 drapes. The Laconia Historical and Museum Society is seeking a "Moose Plate" grant from the New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources to fund restoration of the drape.