FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What is the project?
The Town of Southbridge has completed a facility study of the Southbridge Fire Station to assess the existing conditions, identify the recommended space needed to efficiently support fire department operations, which has ultimately determined that it would be more cost effective to construct a New Facility. The complete report is available on the Resource Page.
Why is a new fire headquarters needed?
The existing Southbridge Fire Station was constructed in 1899 and is nearly 122 years old. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the facility is undersized, antiquated, and does not meet the needs of a modern fire department.
The fire trucks and equipment barely fit into the apparatus bays which were designed for smaller horse drawn, steam driven equipment. Today’s trucks must squeeze through the doors when entering or leaving the station. The apparatus bay floor has cracks, with a ramp to two raised bays which were the result of additions to the building. Floor drains are minimal and antiquated which can result in runoff from the trucks remaining on the floor. There is no separate decontamination area; trucks are cleaned outside and all laundry, is done in the basement which can have mold and mildew. Firefighters protective gear, air tanks, compressor, and some ambulance equipment is also stored near the trucks in the apparatus bay making them vulnerable to contaminates from exhaust.
There is no first aid room and the only public restroom is located in the apparatus bay and does not meet the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). There is a lack of gender accommodations, with only one full unisex bathroom which serves the entire facility. There is no training room, the dispatch center does not meet national recommendations for emergency communication centers, and there is insufficient storage.
There are cracks in the exterior brick, and some columns in the tower require bracing. There is ponding water on the flat roofs of the building, and water has infiltrated the facility directly over the dispatch equipment. The building does not meet numerous state and federal codes including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA Accessibility). There is no elevator in the building to access the Chief’s or Fire Prevention office on the second floor. In addition, the parking area is deteriorating and limited in size.
For a more complete description of the existing conditions, please click here. To tour the building, please contact the Southbridge Fire Department at (508) 764-5430.
Why not just renovate the existing facility?
While it is possible to renovate the existing fire station, the cost to do so is more than $4 million beyond the cost of the proposed construction of a new facility, on a different site. The size of the current site would also limit the efficiency of operations for the Fire Department moving forward.
Is the fire station going to move from the current location?
The facility study concluded that the Marsh Ave. site was the most suitable. After public meeting where residents' concerns were weighed, the comittee voted to move forward with a Central St. location. In June of 2020, the Town of Southbridge entered into a host agreement for marijuana sales on the Central St. location, at the objection of the Fire Station Building Committee. On March 18th, 2021 the committee voted to send a Worcester St. location to Town Council with the intent of a June 2021 Ballot Question to fund the project. The Committee will make a presentation to Council April 5th, 2021 at 7pm.
What other sites are being examined?
Seven sites were originally evaluated, which can be accessed by clicking here.
On April 5th, Town Council voted to add a Ballot question for Voter Consideration to the June 8th, 2021 Election for a New Fire Station on Worcester Street.
What is the cost of the project?
The project cost for a proposed new fire station is estimated to be $25,700,000. This includes both hard construction costs and soft costs for the project, as well as property aquisition.
What are soft costs?
Soft costs, a part of the total project cost, are the added costs that are not directly associated with the construction of the building or sitework. These costs may include, but are not limited to, required testing of the ground (e.g. for hazardous materials), purchase of furniture, required permits from the town or the state, architectural, engineering, and owner’s project manager fees, and insurance. These costs vary based on the size and scope of a project.
How will the project be funded and how will it affect my taxes?
Funding for any fire station construction project must be approved by Southbridge Voters through a debt exclusion ballot question. The final process and the date of these activities are still being determined. As the project cost estimates are developed, we will determine the best financial plan and potential tax impact of the project to the town. State and Federal representatives have been contacted for assistance with funding aid.
Will you look at grants or financial incentives to help pay for the facility?
Yes. All potential opportunities for grants and financial incentives including rebates for sustainable design initiatives, will be explored as the project continues. Committee members and the Town Manager have been in contact with State and Federal Legislators to seek ANY available funding opportunities.
What happens if the project is not approved?
The Southbridge Fire Department will continue to operate out of the existing undersized building to the best of their abilities. Funds will be required to maintain the inefficient facility; however, it will still not provide the necessary space required by the Department or meet current state and federal codes. It has been estimated at more than $10,000,000.00 to address structural repairs, repointing brickwork, and code compliance. This estimate does not include ANY additional spaces or new technology.
Can we tour the existing Southbridge Fire Station?
Yes. Please contact the Southbridge Fire Department at (508) 764-5430 or stop by the station at 24 Elm Street to arrange a tour of the facility. Arrangements can also be made through Fire Chief Paul Normandin Jr. at email@example.com or Deputy Fire Chief Joseph Hulyk at firstname.lastname@example.org
Will the station look like the current Plans/Renderings?
The images on the Plans/Renderings page are conceptual. Should the Voters decide to move forward, the schematic design phase will have multiple options for consideration.