State releases funds for design of fire schools

The Naugatuck Valley Regional Fire Training School will be built on 11 acres of state-owned land in Beacon Falls’ Pinesbridge Commerce Park. –FILE PHOTO

BEACON FALLS — The planned fire training school in Beacon Falls took another small step towards becoming a reality.

On April 27, the state Bond Commission approved an $800,000 grant to cover design and architectural services related to planned schools in Beacon Falls, Burrville, Fairfield, Willimantic, and Cheshire.

Department of Construction Services Assistant Director of Project Management Don Ouillette explained schools would include classrooms, a training center, and a burn building.

At the moment, Ouillette said, the state has only released enough money to hire the criteria architects. These architects will create the drawings for what the fire schools need to have, based on the fire academy’s requirements.

“With these fire schools, they are pretty straight forward,” Ouillette said.

After the architectural drawings are completed, the Department of Construction Services will begin looking for a design-builder, Ouillette said. This means that the same company will be responsible for designing and building the project, without the design having to go out for bids to other builders, he explained.

Jeffrey Morrissette, state fire administrator with the state’s Commission on Fire Prevention and Control, felt the design-build was a wise direction for the state to move in, with regards to the fire schools.

“Design-builds are a faster process than the normal process. Design-build processes are much more streamlined,” Morrissette said.

Ouillette speculated that the project could easily generate up to 15 submissions from builders.

Once the drawings have been generated and the builder has been chosen, the Department of Construction Services will have to go back to the state to ask for the money to begin construction.

Ouillette explained, with all the planning that still needs to be done, it could be up to a year from now before a shovel is in the ground.

As to which of the schools will be built first, Ouillette said that decision was still far in the future.

“Who goes first, we are no where near that,” Ouillette said.

Morrissette explained no preferential treatment will be given and all schools will be examined as potential candidates for being built first.

“All projects will enter the next phase on equal footing. From there it will depend on the funding,” Morrissette said.

The cost for each of the five fire schools that are being considered will be between $7 million and $10 million, Ouillette said.

The Naugatuck Valley Regional Fire Training School was closed in 2000 after the property in Derby was declared a brownfield. The search for a new site for the Valley school eventually led to Beacon Falls. In 2007, state officials driving through the Pinesbridge Commerce Park spotted four lots for sale. It wasn’t until the summer of 2010 when funding became available and the lots, 11 acres in all, were sold to the state for $862,500.

“For more than a decade our firefighters here in the Valley have been without appropriate training facilities, and this bonding will ensure that our bravest have everything they need to train safely and effectively,” said state Rep. Len Greene (R-105) in a new release.

The plan to build the school in the commerce park was met with a variety of concerns from town residents, including the smoke that would come from the school during training exercises, the loss of tax revenue due to the state owning the land, and the potential loss of tax revenue if other companies didn’t want to relocate or build in the commerce park next to the school.

State Sen. Joseph Crisco (D-17), whose district includes Beacon Falls, gave his support to the Valley fire school in a prepared statement.

“The release of this funding for design work and architectural plans for the new Valley Regional Fire Training School in Beacon Falls is another significant step toward replacing the former site in Derby, which was closed more than ten years ago,” Crisco said. “These funds make it that much easier to envision a new facility on the parcel the state purchased in 2010 and brings first responders of nine area towns — Ansonia, Seymour, Shelton, Derby, Orange, Woodbridge, Oxford, Beacon Falls, and Bethany — that much closer to a training site they can call their own.”