LEWISTON — An upcoming study will look at conditions of the city’s fire stations and what kinds of maintenance they’ll need during the next few years.

“We’ll see what we come up with for a development plan and how cost-effective we can be,” Fire Chief Paul Leclair said.

The city is accepting bids from engineering and architectural consultants through Aug. 2, with the hope the selected firm will begin work by the end of August and finish the report by Dec. 1.

They’re seeking engineers to study and evaluate the department’s current buildings and recommend cost estimates for renovating or possibly replacing them.

“We are at the tipping point where we might be looking to make some long-term investments in our vehicles and crews,” Leclair said. “This is a project development plan so we have something in hand we can show the council what we can do for this amount of money and what we can do for this much money.”

Lewiston has four fire stations, including the Central Fire Station at 2 College St. That station houses three vehicles, including Ladder 1, as well as the department administration and the Androscoggin County Emergency Management Agency. Leclair said he’d like to see better crew quarters and storage there.

“It’s the newest of the three stations, but we do suffer from some growing pains,” he said.

That central station is supported by three substations, at 834 Main St., 1058 Lisbon St. and 976 Sabattus St. The Main Street substation is the newest building of the three and dates back to 1955. The Sabattus substation was built in 1942; the Lisbon Street station, in 1950.

All three have been maintained but are beginning to show their age.

“Given that those stations were built so many years ago, the issue now is, how do we improve those stations?” Leclair said. “To what extent should we renovate them?”

Fire equipment, especially ladder trucks and pumpers, have gotten larger and heavier, and that additional weight and height can be difficult for older structures to support. New trucks for the Sabattus and Main Street station fit in the building’s bays but cleared the entrance by just three inches.

“What’s changed with the apparatus is they carry more water, they carry more hose, the crew cabs are larger and they are enclosed,” Leclair said. “There is more hand-held equipment that needs to be secured and they are just bigger, larger, faster and more functional.”

The older stations also have one way in for the trucks, meaning drivers have to back the big machines in to have them ready to go. Leclair said he’d like to see the stations have front and back doors on each bay, letting the trucks pull through.

“It would be an ideal situation, to have a drive-through garage space and not have to go against the traffic to position your apparatus and back into the station,” he said. “It’s something we have to deal with every day on Lisbon Street and Sabattus Street.”

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