ST.JOHNSBURY- The St.Johnsbury Public Safety building has been a fixture on main street since 1924. The building currently houses the Fire Department, Police Department, and Caledonia County dispatch center.
Fire Chief Troy Ruggles says the town built a great building in 1924 but it has outlived its usefulness and its current condition combined with its limited space has created challenges for the fire department. "It's inadequate in a variety of different ways, and structurally we've had issues with the floor. We have a poor ventilation system. On a day to day basis when we're doing maintenance many times, we have to pull the trucks outside. So this is a big challenge, but it's a challenge we've been dealing with for many years. "
The fire department has grown over the years; they now receive specialized training and equipment from the state, equipment that is stored at an unmanned station on Western Avenue. Engine three which serves as the second due pumper truck for fires is also housed at that location. When they get called for a fire an off duty or call firefighter must drive Engine three to headquarters to pick up additional personnel before responding to the scene. "The same building on Western Ave is where all that equipment is stored… which is not terrible but it would be more efficient to have it all in one facility or at least a manned facility. "
The town will be conducting a feasibility study on the building thanks to surplus funds left over from last year's budget. This is fifth or six times during Ruggles's career the issue of the public safety building has come up.
Select board member Kevin Oddy acknowledged this a continuing problem for the town. " It does come up every few years because it's an old building. It certainly has its limitations, so there has been a lot of talk about it. There have been different proposals. There have been property searches and all kind of things over the years."
Some of those efforts failed due to lack of funds while others failed because they were not able to find a suitable property. The current building's central location allows for a three to four minute average response time. There are currently no spaces large enough on main street to build a new facility, and there is no room to expand the current building. Both Ruggles and Oddy fear that moving the building outside of the downtown area would negativity affect response times.
Despite there not being a solution yet Oddy says the select board is still open to ideas "There has been all kind of ideas kicked around from time to time none of them have been a very good idea yet, but that doesn't mean we aren't open to new ideas. Eventually, I'd love to see a great municipal building where we can house all of them and give them the space they need."