Workers were busy earlier this week building a temporary office for Amesbury Fire Chief Jon Brickett and his staff after the recent discovery of mold forced firefighters out of the building.
Firefighters for the foreseeable future will be staying in mobile home trailers behind the 17 School Street station.
Long plastic tubes bring water and other necessities to the two large white trailers that resemble small ranch houses. The trailers have all the comforts of home: full bathrooms, kitchens, living space and bedrooms.
“All the things they need because they’re going to be there for some time,” Brickett said.
Brickett said firefighters have been adjusting well to the new accommodations.
“They seem to be very understanding,” Brickett said, adding the department has no choice but to vacate the station.
Removing the mold and other related expenses will be covered by insurance. The trailers are another matter and come with a sizable price tag: $10,000 for two months and then $3,200 each month thereafter, Mayor Thatcher Kezer said.
Kezer said it has yet to be determined how the city will pay for the added expense but added it meant something that was planned would have to be put aside.
“In any fiscal year, you get hit with contingencies,” Kezer said. “Par for the course in running a city.”
The professional cleaning company Service Master has been hired to remove the mold, a process that could take as long as six months. Once all the mold has been removed, an air-assessment study will be conducted before firefighters are allowed to return to the station. In large enough quantities, mold can cause serious respiratory illnesses and severe allergic reactions.
The mold was discovered Wednesday, March 17, after firefighters noticed an overpowering smell coming from the second-floor living quarters. The mold was located behind paneled walls leading to Brickett’s office. A meeting with the mayor took place the following Monday.
At that meeting, Brickett suggested moving the entire department to a Salisbury car lot that is up for sale in an effort to keep the entire department under one roof. But that was rejected in favor of the trailers, which were delivered to the town last Thursday (March 25).
The city has been looking to repair the roughly 85 year-old public safety building for years. The fire station’s rubber roof has leaked on many occasions and a 3-inch sag was recently spotted on it. Brickwork have needed re-pointing and windows are old leading to more water problems for both the Fire Department but for the Police Department, which shares the building.
In 2007, the Municipal Council approved a bond authorization of $600,000 to renovate the building. Part of that money was spent on a new heating system for the Police Department. But there has been little discussion about plans to renovate the fire station.
Brickett said the city had planned to renovate the building in phases, focusing on exterior work. But with the discovery of mold, engineers now have to come up with plans to renovate the interior as well after all mold is removed.
“It’s caused a bigger expense now,” Brickett said.
Meanwhile, Brickett said there would be “no changes in service” while the department is operating out of the trailers.