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Durham Eyeing Two Historic Homes As Emergency Responders Complex

Durham is looking into converting two town-owned historic homes while into central offices for police, fire and ambulance responders while, at the same time, maintaining them as historic buildings.

Durham First Selectman Laura Francis during the special town meeting on Monday, Jan. 13. Credit: Ronald DeRosa
Durham First Selectman Laura Francis during the special town meeting on Monday, Jan. 13. Credit: Ronald DeRosa
The town of Durham is considering converting a pair of historic homes along Main Street into a central office complex for the town’s police, fire, ambulance and emergency management offices.

The idea is in its very early stages, but the proposal as it was discussed during a special Durham Town Meeting Monday night is to renovate the two properties — located at 37 and 52 Main St., on each side of the town’s fire house — and create a type of central complex for the town's emergency responders, explained First Selectman Laura Francis.

Town officials were able to cross the first necessary hurdle after a gathering of residents approved during a Special Town Meeting a proposal to allocate $42,404 from a building reserve fund toward a pre-development planning study, the first step in a four-stage process.

The money will go toward funding a consultant who will help draft up the study, as well as explain what the costs would be for the renovation, town officials said. While the town will fork over the initial funds for the work, the Connecticut Preservation Trust has agreed to reimburse Durham up to $20,000 spent on the initial planning study, per a grant the town recently received, Francis said. 

The only requirement is that the town keep the historical design of the two homes intact.

“Not only have we determined that they can be renovated to meet historical design standards but we also have determined how they could programmatically serve the town,” she said. “So now we are in a position where we need to move to the next level.”

Francis said that, since the town acquired the two properties 20 years ago, there has always been a question as to what to do with them and how to take care of them. A renovation committee has been in charge of drafting up a proposal, which lead to the item up for discussion during the special town meeting.

While the funding allocation passed with an overwhelming majority of votes, there were some dissenting voices to the idea.

Resident Donia Viola said this would have been a better item for a referendum vote, as not everyone comes out to attend these special town meetings where funding expenses are voted on.

Click here to read a report from 2009 on this proposal.
DG January 14, 2014 at 08:33 AM
This idea makes no sense to me. What about the mold/mildew issue with these houses? I'm not sure I want to see the town dump money into these two structures only to find out they can't rid them of the problems that currently exist.
Brigid January 14, 2014 at 09:47 AM
Why is this being toted as a new issue when utilizing these homes in this way has been discussed ad nauseum for at least ten years?
Brigid January 14, 2014 at 10:40 AM
I meant 'touted', of course.
Scott Wheeler January 14, 2014 at 10:27 PM
LMAO! Didn't this same body of town officials beg the state for money to transport children to school and now want to build an emergency complex while keeping them historic in nature? LMAO!!!!!!!

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