Complaints lead to fire station repairs

file photoCentral Fire Station on Water Street was built in 1927.

The roof of the Central Fire Station on Water Street will be replaced and new windows will be installed, Mayor James Fiorentini said.

The City Council, which held a working meeting with the mayor last week, agreed with that move, without taking a formal vote. The city has set aside $500,000 in free cash to make repairs at the 92-year-old station, the mayor said.

City Council President John Michitson said the city's management of its buildings leaves a lot to be desired. Regarding the Water Street station, he said, the city is taking a "piecemeal approach" when more substantial work is needed.

"We don't have professional management of our facilities," Michitson after the meeting last Tuesday night. Other communities, he noted, have facilities managers who report directly to the mayor or town manager.

Haverhill has a facilities management staff, but it is run by the School Department, both Michitson and Fiorentini pointed out.

"I'm convinced it isn't working," Fiorentini said of the current way of doing things. Fire Chief William Laliberty said the schools usually get repairs before other city buildings.

Michitson said during the meeting Fiorentini needs to take the initiative to have the facilities management staff report to him and not the School Department.

"You are the guy," he told the mayor.

"We may have to arm wrestle the schools," Fiorentini said.

Laliberty talked to the City Council on Nov. 12 about the Water Street station's problems, including the leaking roof, defective windows – some of them stay closed, others can't be closed – deteriorating walls and mold.

The council requested the working meeting with the mayor. Pieter Hartford, a consultant hired by the city last week, said he is confident the roof replacement can be done for $150,000 or less.

Greenwood Roofing Services, the city's on-call roofing contractor, will do the work, Fiorentini said. The city will ask for bids for replacing the windows, which were installed in the 1980s, according to the mayor.

Other companies are expected to offer proposals for repointing the bricks in the station's tower and cleaning the ducts of the heating and ventilating systems.

"We're going to get Water Street (station) done as soon as possible," Fiorentini said.

City Councilor Michael McGonagle, who chairs the council's Public Safety Committee, said he hopes the repairs will cost less than $500,000.

"I want to see action," City Council Vice President Thomas Sullivan said.

City Councilor Timothy Jordan and other colleagues said the city's other fire stations, on South Main and High streets and 16th Avenue and at Rocks and Ayers villages, also have defects.

These stations need "structural analysis," Jordan said.

"I don't want anyone to think we've done nothing about the Fire Department," Fiorentini said. The city purchased a new pumper, Engine 1, for $542,000 in 2017, he said. A new radio system, costing $635,000, was installed in 2018.

The city has spent $3.7 million in capital improvements for the Fire Department during the last few years, he said.

Timothy Carroll, president of Local 1011, International Association of Fire Fighters, the union that represents Haverhill firefighters, said $500,000 won't be enough to fix the Water Street station. Buying and installing commercial grade windows for the station will likely cost $200,000, he said.

He suggested the city look at a long-term solution, such as building a new central station.

Fiorentini estimated that would cost $14 million or $15 million.


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