Cracks in the floor of the station have been worrying firefighters and officials, after a building inspector told them damage to the building may be extensive.
Ron Falcioni, treasurer of the volunteer fire department, said firefighters don't yet know how much the building is damaged or how high the repair costs may be.
"We're concerned about the load capacity of the building," Falcioni said. Just four years ago, the town paid for reconstruction of the concrete "apron" in front of the building. Now that apron and the concrete floor over which 80 tons of fire engines are parked are showing cracks that concerned a building inspector, Falcioni said.
Although there doesn't appear to be any immediate danger, Falcioni told the town on Tuesday, the department is asking for some preliminary estimates on what it would take to examine the floor and apron to make sure the cracks aren't so deep that they could eventually threaten the integrity of the building.
One engineer told department officials that the best option for the firehouse would be to caulk the cracks now in the floor and apron and seal them with an epoxy coating, Falcioni said.
The problem with the cracks is that more water can get in them, then freeze in the winter, he said.
When water turns into ice, it expands somewhat—enough to cause cracks, which is how potholes are also made.
A second opinion
Falcioni said he would be meeting with an engineer today to get a second opinion on how much it would cost to do preliminary testing on the building to confirm whether there is a problem, and how serious it is.
If there isn't a problem with the underlying steel and concrete structure, he said, the fire department will seal the floor to prevent further cracking. Falcioni said fire officials hope to know one way or another in about a month.
"Hopefully," he said, "it sounds worse than it actually is."
Liz Mao, chairman of the Board of Finance, said the board was "open to hearing a plan [for testing] and funding it out of this year's budget."
In 2007, just four years ago, extensive work was done on the concrete apron, Falcioni said. "I really didn't like the way the design was done" for that project, he said.
Falcioni said there were problems during construction that "I wasn't even aware of when it was going on."
In addition to problems with the floor, he said, there have long been cracks and "blocks bulging" in the walls of the building, although that seems to be a longstanding problem that hasn't seemed to get any worse. A cracked chimney will need to be replaced, he said, probably by a vent from the boiler in the building.
Falcioni's comments about the building came as the Board of Finance began to review the town budget. Mao and other board members said they wanted to support the three volunteer fire departments with adequate funding.
In recent years, with town finances in straitened circumstances due to slow growth in the tax base and increased demand for some services, the town has limited its support for the independent fire departments.
At the same time, fundraising has been difficult for the departments, which provide the only local firefighting services for the town. Board of Finance members pointed out that the volunteer firefighters cost the town less than a professional force would.
For this year, Board of Finance members asked officials in all three departments to provide more exact budget documents so that the board could consider what parts of the budgets it might regularly support.
An overall plan for town support might well take longer to develop than this year's decisionmaking schedule on the budget, Mao and other board members said, so the board may revisit the matter this summer.
"It's not our intention that you should be running 25 percent short on what you need to run the place," Mao told one of the fire officials.