SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

September 9, 2013

Chiefs vow to continue fight for new station

Nikas, Smith see public safety center as pressing need

IPSWICH — Every time Engine 5 pulls in and out of the Central Fire Station, it’s a tight squeeze.

“When it comes through the door, it is within inches of the mirrors,” said fire Chief Rick Smith. “It is inches away from the ceiling.”

The firehouse was built in 1906 for horse-drawn fire apparatus, and there have been no major upgrades since. As a result, the department needs to order customized trucks to fit into the space.

There are other problems, including lack of storage and inadequate living quarters for the firefighters. The basement had to be reinforced with columns to hold the weight of modern firefighting equipment. About 10 years ago, a section of brick from an exterior wall fell to the ground, the chief said. Luckily, no one was hit.

The police station over on Elm Street isn’t much better. It was built in the 1930s as a wire storage building for the town’s Utilities Department. After being used for many years as an office, it was converted to a police station in 1986.

It is so cramped that a single room is used for report writing, a sergeant’s office, a kitchen and weapons storage. Documents are stacked in boxes in the attic because there is no proper document storage space. A photocopier is kept in the ladies’ restroom.

The prisoner cells do not meet Department of Public Health standards, Chief Paul Nikas said, and the harbor division office is tucked away in the basement next to electrical panels, a violation of building codes.

“We store equipment in the hallway because there is no room for it,” Nikas said.

Both Smith and Nikas, like many chiefs before them, are hoping for a new combined public safety building to be built on town-owned land in between Elm Street and South Main Street, near the current police station.

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