Have you noticed the scaffolding on the side of the Munjoy Hill fire station? And wondered what is happening up there?
The 35 ft. scaffolding was built several weeks ago to accommodate the work on the roof that is ongoing — later this summer the roof will support a new and safer communications tower (mono-pole) that is essential to emergency services for the fire and police department in the Greater Portland area.
About five years ago, it was discovered that the current tower was not properly secured to the roof. During a severe weather incident, it could be damaged enough to be useless when needed the most. It was also discovered that the current tower, has far too much equipment attached to it; it’s 200% over its weight limit, adding to its unsafe status. To counter that fact, the City wrote grants to Homeland Security for funds to replace the tower. It may be “overbuilt”, but that’s a good thing because residents of the greater Portland area can be assured that in the event of severe weather, communications will be more than adequate to withstand it, said Captain Keith Gautreau of Munjoy Hill Ladder Co. 1.
Engineers first recommended that the new tower be bolted into a concrete pad on the ground near the fire station. Apparently, it was former Fire Chief, Fred LaMontagne, who countered their recommendation and ordered it installed on the roof top of the fire station. “None of us were consulted about the placement of the new tower. No one ever asked our opinion,” said Captain Gautreau at the fire station.
The roof top mounting is expensive to taxpayers. Perhaps unnecessarily so. According to the owner of Scott Construction who contracted with the city early last month to do the preparatory work exclusively to mount the tower, a “ballpark” figure of the contract is $250,000. When they are finished with their work by July 13th, Sabre Industries will complete the job at a figure unavailable to mhn.com at this time.
Additionally, the work on the walls on the inside of the firehouse needed to support the new structure has had a dramatic effect on the daily operataions of the station, said Capt. Gautreau. Too often trucks have to be placed in a different district because of the construction inside the station. “Our response time has been hurt,” he said. “I just want the neighborhood to know what is going on here.”
One neighbor expressed frustration that the neighborhood had not been notified of the work being done at the fire station on Munjoy Hill. “I’ve wondered what is going on and what kind of an impact it will have on the neighborhood,” she said.