WOONSOCKET - To stay and expand, or to go?
That's the question Woonsocket's volunteer Town and Country Fire and Rescue department is mulling over, as an outdated and overcrowded fire hall has the department exploring options to expand at the current location or build an entirely new fire hall.
"We've been crowded for quite a while, and we have added some more equipment to our department as well, so those are some factors in why we are looking at our options," Fire Chief Travis Coulthard said, who has been a volunteer firefighter with the T&C Fire and Rescue for close to 30 years.
Among the recent equipment updates is a $265,000 fire truck, complete with pump and roll capabilities, a feature the department's truck didn't have before. The truck was purchased in November 2016, with the help of a $212,000 grant from Central Electric Cooperative.
"We have a few more members now, and things are going well within our department," Coulthard said.
Backed by nearly 30 volunteer firefighters, the department has seen its team grow steadily in the past decade, he said.
The fire hall was built in the mid-1970s and is currently located at 309 S. Dumont Ave. in the central part of Woonsocket, but Coulthard said a more ideal location would be next to Highway 34 on the edge of town.
Since the Town and Country Fire and Rescue serves Jerauld and Sanborn Counties, covering 254 square miles can be difficult, and having a fire station along Highway 34 would allow the department to respond in a more timely fashion.
"Our best option would be to find a place and build right along the main Highway 34, but right now, I don't foresee that happening," Coulthard said.
A lack of available locations along Highway 34 has Coulthard feeling that the fire hall will stay in close proximity to its current location, should the department choose to build.
"If we don't find a new location for the department and decide to add on to the current one, we would most likely add on to the west side of the building," Coulthard said.
A Nov. 13 open house at the fire hall allowed the volunteer firefighters to receive community feedback on the options the department is weighing in regards to adding on or building a new fire hall.
Coulthard said there isn't a timeline for deciding on the future of the fire hall, but making the right decision is the main focus at the moment. Plans for funding possible upgrades have already begun.
"We are looking to see if there any grants available, along with any low-interest loans," he said. "Regardless, if add on or build, that's where we will look for funding."