Fire Department Substation Project
In July 2022, the Board of Selectmen voted to form a Fire Department Substation Feasibility Committee to consider the establishment of developing a station which addresses the immediate needs of the crumbling Station 2 and quonset hut on leased property. It was also the intent of the study to improve overall response times throughout the community and establish a "public safety" presence in proximity to the schools.
The Committee engaged Context Architecture through a $150,000 grant obtained through the Mass State Legislature and support from local representatives.
The findings of the feasibility study were presented to the Board of Selectmen on August 8, 2023.
The Charlton Fire Department operates under one manned station (Station 1) and two unmanned stations (Station 2 & the Quonset Hut). Station 2 is currently located at 54 North Main Street and was built in 1929, originally purposed at the town's Highway Barn. The current facility lacks any operational facilities and experiences regular flooding. Station 2 has been deemed unrepairable and in need of replacement.
Due to the poor conditions of Station 2, the apparatus currently housed there has become severely deteriorated. The undercarriage of the apparatus has been heavily impacted by rust due to regular flooding
The Quonset hut is located across from Station 1 on Power Station Road on leased property. The building currently houses the town's $1.2 Million tower truck.
Charlton Fire has a staffing of 25 full-time firefighters, many of them are paramedics, with on average (6) personnel working 24-hours a day. All personnel operate from Station 1 and respond to either Station 2 or the Quonset Hut if apparatus from these facilities are needed.
The Fire Department Substation Committee has proposed replacing the two unmanned stations with a second manned sub station on Town owned property in front of Charlton Middle School at the intersection of Oxford Road and Heritage Drive. The new "Station 2" is proposed to be a 13,188 Square Foot facility with 4 drive thru bays designed to house 5 pieces of apparatus including an Ambulance, Engine, Tower, Forestry and Boat as well as outdoor covered storage for operations support trailers. The facility would be staffed by 3 full time personnel per shift.
The Charlton Fire Department covers a primary response area of 43.8 square miles including large portions of the Mass Pike and Route 20. Based on the current single staffed station model, the department is able to respond to 56.9% of the town in under 4 minutes and 84 % of the town in under 8 minutes. The average travel time per call now is 4 minutes and 31 seconds and the 90th percentile of calls are responded to in 9 minutes and 40 seconds.
With a second manned station located on Oxford Road, the department would be able to cover 62.4% of the town in under 4 minutes and 91.6% of the town in under 8 minutes. This would reduce the average travel time to 3 minutes and 50 seconds and the 90th percentile of calls would be responded to in 7 minutes and 38 second (a two minute reduction in response time).
The total estimated project cost of this facility would be $17,398,736 including construction, soft cost, contingency and projected escalation to Winter of 2024. The Board of Selectmen have taken this information under advisement and will provide further guidance on available funding mechanisms and potential taxpayer impact.
At the October 11, 2023 Special Town Meeting, $400,000 was appropriated from Free Cash toward the Schematic Design and Design Development phases of the project. These costs are included in the soft costs of the project costs. Following this phase, the town will have a more fine-tuned cost estimation to bring forward for the consideration of the full construction project in the Spring.
Proposed Floor Plans
Site Plan & Renderings
Board of Selectmen - August 8, 2023 42:40 - 1:32:17 - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LZ5uiFe1HIU
Frequently asked questions about the project will be addressed here. If you have any questions you would like addressed, please email Town Administrator Andrew Golas at Andrew.Golas@townofcharlton.net
Does the Town need to hire additional Firefighters to support this plan?
Yes, the department currently runs two shifts with five (5) firefighters and two shifts with six (6) firefighters. Five (5) additional firefighters would need to be hired to increase staffing to seven (7) per shift (Four (4) at Station 1 and Three (3) at Station 2)
Does the Town need to purchase additional apparatus to support this plan?
No, the building is designed to house the apparatus fleet currently owned by the Town.
What is the plan for the current fire headquarters?
The headquarters on Power Station Road would remain operational for the foreseeable future with incremental facility improvements. Long term, the Town would evaluate the need for a public safety building vs standalone Fire/Police stations, however, the needed size would be greatly reduced.
Why not just make this building bigger and centralize all operations to this location?
A primary goal of the substation project is to reduce overall response times to the community at large. Due to the geographic area of the town, there is no way to improve response times in one area without sacrificing in another. This plan works to address this issue. Additionally, even with a similar site plan, a building large enough to house all current apparatus and staff at a single location in the current construction market would be approximately $28 Million.
What is the plan for the current Station 2?
Station 2 is beyond repair and will be raised. The property will either be redeveloped as municipal parking or sold.
What is the next step in the process?
The Board of Selectmen and Finance Committee are in the process of evaluating financial strategies and timing for the necessary town approvals. The project will require a 2/3rds vote for a loan authorization at a future Town Meeting (placeholder currently set for October 11th Special Town Meeting). Depending on financial strategy, a ballot vote may be petitioned for a debt exclusion on the project. More information will be provided on estimated tax impacts and necessary vote timing.