Pace of fire station renovations in East Providence pick up


EAST PROVIDENCE — After a few starts and stops due to some financial and architectural concerns, renovations at two East Providence Fire Department hubs are finally going full bore.

Additions of office and living space at EPFD Station 1 on Broadway and the near complete overhaul of Station 4 on Wampanoag Trail have both commenced and accelerated in recent weeks.

"Station 4 is being treated as a new building. We're hoping Station 4 will be open by September or October. Station 1, they're working around the guys. It's going to take longer, but we hope to be done there by the end of the year," said Acting EPFD Chief Oscar Elmasian.

A crew from K.O. Steel Construction, based in North Scituate, recently installed steel support beams on the North side of Station 1, the EPFD headquarters. The beams serve as the ceiling structure for the revamped administrative offices, including that of the chief, at the location as well as the base for an expanded second floor, which will now span the entire length of the building.

At Station 4, whose crew and equipment are taking up temporary housing on Amaral Street farther down the Trail during construction, nearly the entire structure is being remodeled. Wood framing is almost complete on the east (left), west (right) and north (rear) facing sides of the existing building.

As is the case at Station 1, the living quarters at the Wampanoag Trail locale are being upgraded. More importantly, a new, additional truck bay is being built along with expanded supply and work areas.

The renovations are part of a $6-plus million project being financed totally from federal funding. The work was originally supposed to begin late in 2012. Design delays pushed the work back somewhat, but it began in earnest earlier in this calendar year.

More recently there's been a spot of bother attempting to dig the 1,500-foot wells to operate the new geothermal heating systems at both locations, a requirement issued by the federal government to make the department eligible for grant monies that are funding the project.

Chief Elmasian told the City Council at a meeting last month the delays were cause for some concern as the project would not meet what was initially a late-summer, early fall completion date originally mandated by the federal government. Chief Elmasian said his department was already preparing to submit the proper paperwork asking for a short extension, which the feds are likely to accept. The project is now on schedule to be completed some time in mid to late fall of 2013.

"The people working at these stations have gone over and above, and that also goes for the guys who worked on getting the grants. They're approaching this like it's being done to their own houses, which in a lot of ways it is," Chief Elmasian added.

Each station has its own building committee, which meets on a bi-weekly basis. When a question comes up, the committees are the go-to source for information. Chief Elmasian noted the efforts of Station 1 Captain Ted Hopkins, Station 4 Captain Dave Rave, Battalion Chief Frank Wyrostek for their efforts to date during the project.

"These guys have been huge assets. They know the plans better than anyone on the project. They know all the ins and outs. They've put in a tremendous amount of extra time without getting paid," Chief Elmasian said. "The captains have a lot invested in this project. They both could have retired before this, but they want these stations to be done right for the firefighters who will serve this city for the next 30, 40 years. They're holding the architects' and the builders' feet to the fire."

The renovation of Station 1, with a price tag of $3.8 million, is especially near and dear to Capt. Hopkins. It's the only building he's known during his near three-decade run as an East Providence firefighter.

"The tough thing about the whole process is I've lived my life at Station 1," Capt. Hopkins said of the Broadway building, constructed in 1931. "I've been at the station all 28 years I've been on the department. I want it to end up with it all being done right."

For the most part, work at Station 1 has been to the exterior of the building and hasn't interrupted most activities. That is expected to soon change, which will present those working there with a new set of challenges.

"I'm trying to make everyone understand what needs to get done and how it should get done," Capt. Hopkins added. "It really hasn't been any different yet. And when it is, we'll just have to work around it. It's going to be entertaining to see how it all comes together in the end."


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