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Conn. EMS plan may renovate old firehouse

STRATFORD, Conn. The town is considering a $2 million project to renovate and transform the old firehouse on Main Street into a new Emergency Medical Services center for its 120-member corps.

The local EMS, made up almost entirely of volunteers and marking its 50th anniversary this year, has been housed in the basement of Police Department headquarters for decades.

The unit operates out of a 3,000-square-foot space in the lower level of headquarters, but would move to the 9,000-square-foot former firehouse under a plan presented to a Town Council committee this week by Silver Petrucelli & Associates of Hamden.

The firm was retained by the town to prepare conceptual plans to transform the old firehouse into an EMS center.

"We have been cramped into the lower level of the police station for a long time and we need a building of our own," said EMS Capt. Robert Calzone, former councilman-at-large. "Having an actual EMS center three times as large as our current space right next door to the new firehouse would be helpful."

Calzone pointed out being next door to fire headquarters would help to better coordinate response to emergencies with firefighters, as well as for training purposes. "It would also open up much needed space for police in their building," Calzone said. "We are a self-sufficient unit and pay about $300,000 to the town each year, part of which could be put toward paying for the renovated building." Ever since a new $6.5 million, 27,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art firehouse and dispatch center was erected two years ago next door to the former firehouse, at 2725 Main St., the old building has been vacant.

The consultants have determined the building is structurally sound, but needs a new roof and a "retrofitting" to transform it into an EMS Center.

Bill Silver, representing the firm, presented three different plans to the Town Council's Building Needs Committee this week, but recommends the least costly of the projects, which range from $2 million to $2.5 million.

"We prefer the least costly plan because there would be no change of the existing footprint, and no expansion of the building as in the more expensive proposals," Calzone said. Mayor James R. Miron said he supports the concept, but declined to endorse the proposal until he has a chance to review it.

"I think the EMS unit needs its own building, and the old firehouse is just sitting there vacant," Miron said. "Whether we use it for EMS or another purpose, it doesn't make sense to just leave it there vacant."

Town Council Majority Leader Michael Henrick, R-10, chairman of the Building Needs Committee, said the idea is a good one. "If we can renovate an unused town building and make EMS more effective, I think we have to seriously consider that," Henrick said. "We will probably make a recommendation at our next meeting next month." Town Council Chairman James Feehan, R-9, however, said he has questions about the proposal.

"We were told a new firehouse was needed because the old building was falling apart and it would not be cost-effective to renovate it," Feehan said. "I also don't know if the town wants to take on any more bonding at a time when we need to tighten our belts."

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