Orange officials eye two sites for public safety complex

Mark Anderson, John McGee and Ashley Aydt of The LiRo Group delivered a presentation at this week’s Orange Selectboard meeting and discussed the viability of constructing such a public safety complex at either 574 East River St. or 35 Cheney St.

Mark Anderson, John McGee and Ashley Aydt of The LiRo Group delivered a presentation at this week’s Orange Selectboard meeting and discussed the viability of constructing such a public safety complex at either 574 East River St. or 35 Cheney St. SCREENSHOT

Mark Anderson, John McGee and Ashley Aydt of The LiRo Group delivered a presentation at this week’s Orange Selectboard meeting and discussed the viability of constructing such a public safety complex at either 574 East River St. or 35 Cheney St.

Mark Anderson, John McGee and Ashley Aydt of The LiRo Group delivered a presentation at this week’s Orange Selectboard meeting and discussed the viability of constructing such a public safety complex at either 574 East River St. or 35 Cheney St. SCREENSHOT

Mark Anderson, John McGee and Ashley Aydt of The LiRo Group delivered a presentation at this week’s Orange Selectboard meeting and discussed the viability of constructing such a public safety complex at either 574 East River St. or 35 Cheney St.

Mark Anderson, John McGee and Ashley Aydt of The LiRo Group delivered a presentation at this week’s Orange Selectboard meeting and discussed the viability of constructing such a public safety complex at either 574 East River St. or 35 Cheney St. SCREENSHOT

The Orange Police Department sign.

The Orange Police Department sign. Staff File Photo/Paul Franz

The Orange Fire Station on Water Street.

The Orange Fire Station on Water Street. STAFF FILE PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

By DOMENIC POLI

Staff Writer

Published: 10-06-2023 5:48 PM

ORANGE — Representatives from an architectural, engineering and construction firm remotely attended the latest Selectboard meeting to explain the options for creating a public safety building that would consolidate the town’s police and fire departments.

Mark Anderson, John McGee and Ashley Aydt of The LiRo Group delivered a presentation and discussed the viability of constructing such a facility at either 574 East River St. or 35 Cheney St.

The brick building at 35 Cheney St. once housed Butterfield School and would require extensive renovations. The firm examined this location because it is “fairly centrally located” in town and “probably a pretty decent site.”

“Response times, they’re going to be changed a little bit from this area,” McGee said.

The space at 574 East River St., McGee said, is a former youth football field between the town highway garage and a small dirt access road to the Orange Municipal Airport hangars. He said the site, like the one on Cheney Street, has good topography and is owned by the town. McGee said the space would be good for emergency operations and trainings.

“It’s about as good an area as you can get to put a public safety facility,” he said, adding that it is public enough to be accessible, while also granting some privacy.

Selectboard member Jane Peirce mentioned that for months, she has worked on a small committee with LiRo Group members as well as Police Chief James Sullivan and Fire Chief James Young, and Wednesday’s presentation was aimed at providing “a taste of the work we’ve done.”

Peirce referenced new bills filed by Rep. Natalie Blais, D-Deerfield, and Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton, that seek to open up new avenues to assist towns in paying for these sorts of developments by establishing a municipal and public safety building authority similar to the Massachusetts School Building Authority or the Board of Library Commissioners’ grant program.

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“It would be critical for us to have plans in hand as soon as that money became available, because you can’t apply for something if you don’t have plans,” Peirce said. “So the work that’s been done will get us to that point.”

Anderson explained that a quick analysis of the current Police and Fire departments’ facilities revealed several engineering restraints, including small lot sizes, high groundwater tables and aged on-site infrastructure. Anderson said it was necessary to look for a separate site for a combined complex. He also said the project would cost between $20 million and $25 million.

Anderson mentioned that the plan would be to preserve as much greenery as possible at the East River Street site so the spot wouldn’t be “a sea of asphalt, if you will.”

Aydt detailed a pair of floor plans that were developed through analysis and conversation with the fire and police chiefs, who she said stressed the need for good circulation within the building and its designated spaces.

Young, who has been the fire chief for seven years, said the next step is to send the project to a cost estimator. He explained his department has operated out the 18 Water St. station since it was built in 1936.

“We really have outgrown this space, both staffing-wise and ... modern vehicles don’t fit in there right now,” he said. “For years we’ve had to special order apparatus to fit in there, and the vehicles are just too large nowadays.”

Young also said he wants to provide his staff with a more modern workplace. This, he said, will likely help with recruitment and retention of firefighters. The designs for the proposed public safety building include a space in which firefighters can safely decontaminate their gear. Currently, Young’s firefighters have to remove their gear at a fire scene and bag it before bringing it to the town’s other fire station at 50 Mill Yard Road, the only station with the proper cleaning equipment.

“I’m confident it will be well supported,” Young said of the proposed project. “I believe that it’s a very important project that we need to push forward the best we can.”

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-930-4120.