The time has come: Rutland Town’s fire and police departments are ready for a new home on McKinley Street with room to grow.
On Tuesday, the first eight committee members — Select Board Chairman Joshua Terenzini included — met to discuss possible avenues for the new structure, to be built with the needs of the agencies in mind and a sharp focus on expenses, and, ideally, input from residents.
“There’s a strong feeling that it should be an emergency municipal management building,” Terenzini said. “It’s going to be a joint venture between police and fire.”
Anyone who visits Rutland Town knows that the town is spread out, so when the fire stations were built in the late 1960s, they split the department between two sections of the town to hasten response times throughout the municipality.
But five years ago, construction on the Center Rutland Fire Station was completed, leaving the steadily expanding police department in the Town Office where they had neither an interview room nor adequate space to question suspects, Police Chief Ed Dumas said.
Now that the police department has expanded to four full-time members and one part time, including one school resource officer and a new cruiser scheduled to arrive in August, the police department needs a bigger space and office to conduct their work, according to Dumas.
“We’d like a bay that holds two cruisers,” Dumas said. “A holding room, an interview room ... and an office for the chief.”
“It’s time to start thinking about the McKinley avenue fire station,” Terenzini said. “That building is 50 years old, and it’s tired ... it’s from a different time when there were smaller fire engines and less volume of calls. ... We’ve outgrown the current building.”
New Fire Chief Chris Clark, who is in his 22nd year at the Rutland Town Fire Station and started his new job in May, said the building had been renovated in the 1980s to add an extra bay, but the building overall needs to be bigger now so trucks can fit in better. They’re limited by the steel beams in place.
“It’s built out of cement blocks, and they’re starting to deteriorate,” Clark said. “The electricity could be updated, and the offices — we just don’t want to have it fall apart and not have a plan in place with what to do next.”
The firetrucks have to be parked behind one another to be able to fit the five vehicles, but Clark said they could get away with four new bays in the public safety building if they needed to.
Clark said they could use a new gear washer and a cascade system to fill their new air packs so they didn’t have to keep running over to the Rutland City Fire Department for refills.
“We could use a bigger meeting room, maybe a small kitchen,” Clark said. “We’re not looking to expand it, just update it.”
Dumas said they’ve been eyeing the now five-year-old Castleton Public Safety building as a model for their new space, which Castleton Fire Chief Heath Goyette said cost just shy of $2 million to build.
“We had to do a lot of changes to the original plan to get it that low,” Goyette said.
Before that, the Castleton departments were in a similar position: farther apart with limited space and only a cold space to wash their engines during Vermont winters.
“Police were part of the old town office, and first response had a bay with some stuff in it, but fire was on Elm street in Castleton Village. ... We had no accessibility, there was no room for expansion and no room to build what we have now,” Goyette said.
Since the new building next to the Town Hall was completed, the fire and police are centralized, they have a gear room to get suited up in, have a completely ADA-compliant building, and membership to the department has increased and stayed up in the past few years, Goyette said.
“The police are right next door if we need them,” he said.
Terenzini said the committee plans to meet regularly in the hopes of completing the building — with the blessing of the voters — in several years’ time, but has no set date and no builder or design yet in place.