Bristol ready to break ground on new firehouse

BRISTOL — Just under a year ago, a grim engineering report on the state of Bristol’s 1897 fire station ignited the town to redouble its efforts to rehouse the town’s firefighters in a safe and efficient modern facility.
Builders are slated to break ground in less than two weeks on a new firehouse on a 9-acre parcel on the south side of West Street near the entrance to the Bristol recreation fields.
Construction contracts were awarded this week, said Town Administrator Therese Kirby, and they came in under the total estimated cost of $2,840,067. Builder Naylor and Breen of Brandon expects to begin setting up the construction site next week and to break ground around Oct. 26. The fire department should be moved into the new 11,000-square-foot building by next July 4.
“A new building has been long overdue,” Kirby said. “The selectboard, myself, the Bristol Fire Department — we are so excited that people are going to be able to see groundbreaking within the next two weeks, and we just can’t wait to get people moved into the building. The new station will incorporate the 120 years of history and will give the fire department more than adequate facilities to provide fire safety and assistance to the community.”
On Monday, Kirby, Bristol Fire Chief Brett LaRose and Bristol’s clerk of the works for the project Tom Barden, together with project developer Kevin Harper of Stoney Hill Development, met with representatives from builder Naylor and Breen and architects Cushman Design Group. They reviewed bids, selected qualifying suppliers and subcontractors, made some pre-construction design and specification decisions, and assessed the project’s progress through the permitting process.
“The bids went out, and the bids have been awarded to the lowest bidders,” said Kirby.
As construction moves forward, Barden will visit the site multiple times a week, overseeing the project on behalf of the town. Barden, of Barden Inspection and Consulting, was brought in on the project in May to independently crunch the numbers on the cost estimate. As construction moves forward, he will continue to be the town’s man on the ground at the construction site. Kirby and LaRose will continue to attend construction meetings and visit the site regularly, as construction proceeds.
This past July, Bristol voters approved a $3,190,000 bond to purchase the 9.03-acre site on West Street and construct a fire facility. Cost for purchasing the land was set, before the bond vote, at $345,000. That vote capped a process that had included several false starts over the past decade, and nine months of meetings in this round of research, site evaluation and discussion of plans.
A breakthrough in the process came in late January when local businessman Kevin Harper proposed to finance and oversee construction of the fire facility, which would then be sold “turnkey” to the town of Bristol. The purchase of the lot will also allow the town to access 30 additional acres that it owns behind the new fire station site. Discussions have begun on developing that larger property into a business park.
Some Fundraising
To keep costs down on the bond vote, funding for the station’s interior furnishings — appliances, tables, chairs, file cabinets, gear lockers, benches and the like — was not included in the $3.19 million bond. The fire department plans to bring as much as they can from its current 32 North St. station, said Kirby, and to look into surplus equipment and furnishings at other stations. The town is putting together a committee to spearhead fundraising for the new station’s interior furnishings. Anyone who wants to be part of that committee or donate skills or funds should contact Eric Forand or Therese Kirby at the town office at 453-2410.
As the town has moved ahead on designing, funding and building the new fire station, discussion has also been under way about what to do with the 118-year-old structure at 32 North St. Options that have been discussed include selling the building, with or without caveats; getting grants and renovating the building; or dismantling the building and selling the timber. Bristol voters will decide the fate of the old firehouse on Town Meeting Day next March.
“The town could not say enough good about Stoney Hill Development, about Naylor and Breen and Cushman Design Group,” said Kirby. “They have been a wonderful team. They have really kept the money at the forefront and have always been fiscally conservative. And they are providing us with the best possible space they can for the money.”
Reporter Gaen Murphree is at [email protected].

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