TRENTON — The Trenton Volunteer Fire Department is drafting plans for a bigger station following a 2018 feasibility study.
The current station, a 5,200-square-foot structure attached to the town office, was built in 1952 and used to be the town’s elementary school, Fire Chief Steve Corson explained in a recent interview.
It has operated as the fire station since 1977.
The feasibility study conducted nearly three years ago found that the department would need a station to be about twice its current size, roughly 9,800 square feet, to meet its needs, Corson said.
Designs of a new station have been drafted and are modeled after the Southwest Harbor station, which was built in 2006 and includes five bays with 14-foot-wide doors and 20-foot-high ceilings.
Corson said if constructed, the station would be “built for the future, not just for today” and would be big enough to accommodate trucks and apparatuses even if their sizes increase in the future.
He added that the projected price, $1.3 million to $1.5 million, based off the cost of the Southwest Harbor station and excluding site work, is an investment that would span three to four decades.
A parcel of town-owned land near the Route 3 and Oak Point Road intersection could be a potential site for the station.
Corson said that according to tax maps, the old fire station used to be on the lot. The property also used to have a recycling center. Today, there is an access road, and the lot is used for salt and sand storage for the town.
“All I can do is put the information out” about a new station, Corson said. Residents can then review the information and the project may be brought to vote in the future, but not this year.
Corson is hoping for May 2022 at the latest.
What will be on the warrant this year at the town’s May meeting is an article that will ask voters if they want to approve a paid firefighter position with the expense shared with Hancock County.
Details are still being confirmed, but the position would likely be 40 hours per week, split evenly between work at the Hancock County-Bar Harbor Airport and the town of Trenton.
Many fire departments struggle to recruit sufficient volunteers while maintaining older facilities that were not built for modern firefighting equipment.
“We don’t do it for the money,” Corson said, adding that volunteer departments “play a vital part in small communities.”
According to 2013 data from the National Fire Protection Association, volunteer firefighters save taxpayers across the country nearly $140 billion each year.
The U.S. Fire Administration reports that nearly 72 percent of the 337 Maine fire departments registered with the National Fire Department Registry are staffed fully by volunteers. This is consistent with national data, which indicates that volunteer departments make up about 70 percent of all fire departments.
Volunteering is a substantial time commitment.
Corson reported to the Board of Selectmen recently that volunteer staff worked about 300 hours between January and February this year, averaging about 38 hours per week.
Corson works full time at Hinckley Yachts. His staff also work full-time jobs and have families of their own.