Stow celebrated the teamwork and community spirit that made the new fire station and community center a reality at a dedication ceremony Oct. 27.
“Everyone working together brought this project in at $1 million under budget on its original scope. And most important it is going to meet some very real needs this community has had for a while,” said Board of Selectmen Chairman James Salvie, who served as master of ceremonies.
The project began five years ago as three separate proposals for a new fire station, a new facility for the Council on Aging, and an expanded library, all of which were defeated in Town Meetings. Because the fire station and community center proposals had come close to being approved, an Oversight Committee was formed, tasked with finding a way to meet taxpayers’ desires for a less expensive solution.
Committee members eventually came up with the idea to combine the projects, and renovate the former Pompositticut Elementary School building to house the Fire Department, Council on Aging, and Recreation Department offices.
Originally constructed in 1971 with open classrooms, in 2009 Stow residents voted to move students from the Pompositticut School to the Center School by fall 2012.
“It had outlived its usefulness as a school but structurally it was still sound, made of steel and stone, and it’s going to be here a long time. It enabled us with a little creative thinking to offer a combined use for a community center and a fire station that was going to be cost effective and efficient,” said Town Administrator William Wrigley.
Stow voters approved design funds for the new center at a 2014 Town Meeting, and approved construction funds in early 2015. Pezzuco Construction started work in June 2015.
“It was an opportunity for us to bring it back to its original life and I think if you look around, even around the exterior of the building, it looks like a brand new building,” said Craig Martin, Stow’s building inspector, who also served as the project manager.
The Fire Department began operating in the new location on Oct. 12. The other departments have started moving in, and expect to be active there within the next few weeks.
The Food Pantry, now located at St. Isidore’s Church, has submitted a bid for tenant space at the new center.
“Right now we’re strictly an 8 to 11 a.m. operation and we will now have the ability, without the constraints of having to fit ourselves into the church’s schedule, to start offering food to clients after hours, late afternoon, early evening,” said Steve Dungan, Food Pantry volunteer coordinator.
State Sen. Jamie Eldridge, D-Acton, presented a citation from the Senate and House of Representatives recognizing the grand opening of the fire station to Chief Joseph Landry. State Rep. Kate Hogan, D-Stow, presented a similar citation to Council on Aging Chairman of the Board William Byron.
“I’m just so impressed that those two institutions came together and I think really the idea of a community center not just focused on seniors but the whole community and involving the Council on Aging, the Food Pantry, and a recreation center all together is really impressive and very innovative,” Eldridge said.
Alyson Toole, executive director of the COA, said moving from a 1,200-square-foot space in the lower level of the town building, to a 12,000-square-foot at the new community center, will allow the COA to offer more programs.
“We’re all going to be working together to offer shared programs such as fire safety, first aid, CPR classes, intergenerational programs, just to name a few. I’m proud to be part of this unique, cutting edge model, and thankful that Stow is forward thinking and planning for the future,” added Toole.
The ceremony concluded as Salvie cut the red ribbon.