John MacMillan of Reinhardt Associates discusses a conceptual drawing of a possible police/fire facility on the Lehovic property.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The town's Public Safety Building Study Committee on Friday decided to recommend the town explore further the possibility of a joint police-fire facility at the so-called Lehovic Property on Main Street.
The committee met for more than an hour with the president of Agawam design firm Reinhardt Associates. The takeaway message was that of the two sites the firm studied as potential homes for a joint facility, only the Lehovic site would work.
The Fire District's attempts to acquire the property in the fall for a fire station were twice narrowly rejected, in part, on the argument that the town should consider a joint public safety facility to save money.
The Lehovic property and the former home of the Williamstown Financial Center on Main Street were selected for analysis from a list of six properties under consideration by the committee.
John MacMillan of Reinhardt told the panel on Friday that the former Financial Center could be renovated and expanded to create a police station only because there were site constraints that made the property ill-suited for a joint facility.
"What I get is that the Financial Center stops here," committee Chairwoman Jane Patton, also a selectman, said.
The committee authorized Patton to ask the Selectmen to authorize further study on the Lehovic site, while keeping the option open to engage Reinhardt to do preliminary studies on four other sites — the former town garage site on Water Street (being considered for affordable housing), a parcel owned by Harsch Associates on Main Street and two sites not currently on the market.
MacMillan told the committee that after taking into account the needs expressed by the town's Police Department and the Williamstown Fire District (a separate governmental entity), Reinhardt determined a joint facility would require a footprint of either 18,400 square feet or 14,500 square feet, depending on whether the building includes a "2 1/2" floor above the apparatus bay for the fire trucks.
In that model, most of the first-floor space would be devoted to the police. The main fire presence on the ground floor would be the 7,000 to 8,000 devoted to the apparatus bay.
Almost 5,000 square feet in the joint facility would be "shared space" — one of the benefits of a joint facility frequently sited by advocates of combining police and fire services under one roof. Among the areas that would serve both department: the lobby, public toilet facilities, a multipurpose interview room, meeting space, utility space and custodial space.
While the Lehovic and Financial Center properties are nearly equal in square footage, there are issues with the latter that would make it not ideal for a police/fire facility. Among those issues: such a structure on the site would not allow for a "drive-through" apparatus bay, meaning that fire trucks would have to back into the site from Main Street (Route 2).
"The building is reasonable for police, but it's not feasible for police and fire with the site constraints," MacMillan said.
The Lehovic site may be able accommodate a joint facility, he said.
While cautioning that the site requires further study, including test borings to study soil stability, MacMillan said its physical dimensions could accommodate a joint facility with the 14,500 square foot footprint he described to the committee.
Plus the Lehovic property is abutted by the former Agway site, which is on the market and could potentially be subdivided into smaller lots. Patton said the committee has approached that site's owner about the possibility of subdividing and been told to "make them an offer."
MacMillan said that if the town was able to carve off part of the Agway lot, it could use the adjacent land for parking, opening up space on the 3.7-acre Lehovic site.
Committee member Andrew Hogeland asked whether the town could scale back the size of the joint facility, but MacMillan discouraged that notion.
"You could make the building smaller, but I don't know if it would have an impact on the site," he said. "Everything lost from the building today adds to the [possibility of its] obsolescence. You could cut it today, but that would lead to functional problems down the road."
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