Nearly 100 years after it was built, the yellow clapboard building on Sport Hill Road that currently houses Easton’s Volunteer Emergency Services will get a needed upgrade and expansion.
Last week, the Board of Finance approved the EMS Planning and Building Committee’s proposal to spend $3.7 million to repair the building and make room for more ambulances and personnel, bringing it in line with modern emergency medical facilities. The Board of Selectmen approved the project, according to First Selectman David Bindelglass.
Since 1988, EMS has run its operations in the building, which has become outdated in several respects. These include three garage bays for four vehicles, limited office space (five shared desks for 10 administrative members), live-in/overnight accommodations for just three people, no elevator access to the second floor, and a number of repair issues.
Jonathan Arnold, the EMS chief, said the department is excited to be moving forward with the project and glad for the community support. EMS has for years been advocating for a new building.
“We can’t wait for the next step for the architect to come up with a drawing to fit the need of our EMTs and the community,” said Arnold. “We aren’t going to live in a 100-year-old building. We will be able to properly house our equipment and personnel and respond to calls in a timely manner.”
The project includes two additional garage bays and improvements to the building that include administrative space, sleeping quarters, private bathrooms, training space, a kitchen, and a day room.
The EMS Planning and Building Committee had also considered an addition to the Easton Volunteer Fire Company building on Center Road. After asking several architectural firms and construction companies, it received a range of estimates between $5 million and $7 million, depending on the number of garage bays added. The committee presented these findings to the Board of Finance at its July meeting.
The committee and the board agreed the most cost-effective solution is an addition to the current EMS facility.
“I think we all agree the EMS needs a better station,” said Building Committee Chairman Bill Andrews. “There’s no doubt about that. The other thing we need is to have an economical solution that meets the needs of the community and works.”
The project would include the price of purchasing the land between the EMS building and the Easton Village Store, which Andrews estimated to be assessed at $130,000. The town has received $2,092,923 in funds through the American Rescue Plan Act which can be used for the project.
The additional land should allow improvements to the septic system. While the renovation is in progress, EMS would have access to the adjacent property to put a trailer and a tent to house the vehicles.
“The most important thing, as we pointed out before, is this would give EMS the operational abilities that they need to exist right now in a station that is functional and cost-effective compared to the other options,” said Andrews. “The renovation provides that flexibility. It gives us extra garage doors if we need them. When we came upon this plan, it’s like we’re getting the best of both worlds where we’re getting the flexibility should we need it.”
Before the renovation takes place, the Board of Finance agreed that four factors must first be met. Since the front of the building is on state property, the town must have permission to build on it.
The septic system must be designed to accommodate the square footage outside of the building and the property must have a well.
Lastly, environmental testing must be done before the additional property is purchased, as the area in back of the building was used as a school bus depot for years.
This month the commission plans to search for an architect. In November, it hopes to report what this would cost and to ask the Board of Finance for the necessary funds to engage the architect’s services. This should get the project moving through the end of January when it can go out to bid for construction.
In March, the bid winner would be announced and the committee would present this to the Board of Finance for approval. A town meeting would follow in April with groundbreaking for the project taking place sometime in the spring or summer.
The board approved a motion to create a capital building project fund for the EMS project. It also agreed to put up to $20,000 to be used at the committee’s discretion should it incur any expenses while searching for an architect.