SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

August 13, 2013

Ipswich looks to revive public safety building plans

By Jonathan Phelps
Staff writer

---- — IPSWICH — Plans to build a new public safety center to replace the town’s deteriorating fire and police stations have been stalled for years, but Town Manager Robin Crosbie is now looking to push the project forward.

While previous groups have studied different options and locations over the years, Crosbie has assigned a new task force to make recommendations to selectmen, including a conceptual plan that will be presented on Sept. 3.

The project has been identified as a goal for selectmen.

“We need to have the resources and space to perform the kind of operations that police, fire and other public safety employees need to do in the 21st century,” Crosbie said.

When she first toured the police station as the town’s new manager, she noticed that there wasn’t adequate space for emergency operations systems. A temporary area has since been set up in the basement of Town Hall to address the need, she said.

The station on Elm Street needs work on its roof, as well as the heating, electrical and plumbing systems. There is not enough room in the building for its operations or training, she said.

The firehouse on Central Street, which is more than 100 years old, doesn’t have enough space for all the vehicles, has limited parking and no place for on-call firefighters to prepare for a fire, Crosbie said. It was built for horse-drawn fire apparatus.

“It looks nice from the outside as a historical building,” Crosbie said. But it was designed for a call department, she noted, and wasn’t meant to have on-duty firefighters living there.

An architect is working pro bono to come up with conceptual drawings to be presented at the meeting, Crosbie said.

Fire Chief Rick Smith would not comment on the need for a new fire station yesterday.

Crosbie said the new task force has been working for several months to come up with a proposal, including a location and cost estimate. She hopes there will be an article at Town Meeting to approve funding for a feasibility study to move forward on a combined public safety building.

She said the task force worked off a list from other study groups of about 19 possible locations for the combined station on both private and town-owned land.

“It has never come to a conclusion,” Crosbie said of previous plans. “There was never a yes or no.”

Crosbie said the plans need to be developed to be included in the town’s capital improvement plan, which prioritizes the town’s most pressing needs.

“Both buildings are antiquated and need substantial repairs,” she said. “Before we build a capital plan, we need to know if we are going to be building a new facility.”

The two buildings could be repaired and renovated, but there would still be issues of space at both buildings, she said.

Staff writer Jonathan Phelps can be reached at 978-338-2527 or by email at jphelps@salemnews.com. Follow him on Twitter at JPhelps_SN.