New firehouse on Meeting House Hill still in budget plan

The Engine 17 fire station atop Meeting House Hill has been in line for replacement for several years.
Its expected cost: $24.7 million.

Approved last year for $24.7 million, a new Meeting House Hill fire station is still the Fire Department’s single biggest ticket item in the city’s Capital Plan, and still at the 2018 number.

The Engine 17 station —home to one of the city’s busiest fire companies — has been situated on Parish Street for most of the past century. Fire officials have said for years that the facility, like many in Boston, is in need of an upgrade.

This need is in part due to the station’s angle of entry onto Parish Street, facing the Mather Elementary school and the historic First Parish church that gives the street its name.

The Fiscal Year 2020 Capital Plan “calls for a complete reconstruction of the existing facility,” according to a city spokesperson, which “will feature innovative design elements that force potentially harmful contaminants away from living and training areas. This is accomplished, in part, by slight air pressure variations produced by the building’s HVAC systems.”

In July 2016, when the station was budgeted for $13 million, Fire Commissioner Joe Finn said, “We are talking with First Parish for the land that abuts the firehouse property and getting it appraised.”

The planned appraisal would include a geological study of the site, since there is a large Puddingstone formation on the hilltop. The new firehouse might then be built closer to the intersection with Winter Street— facing out onto Rev. Allen Park – on what is now a vacant lot owned by the church.

The firehouse was budgeted for $19 million across five years in the Fiscal Year 2017 capital plan and in 2018, the number was raised to $24.7 million. Fire officials have now declined for two years to comment on the budget increase, and it is unclear where negotiations stand.

Other fire stations are in line for upgrades or entirely new facilities in the capital plan, including the ongoing reconstruction of Roxbury’s Engine 42 station, budgeted for $23.6 million.

“This budget keeps people safe by giving our first responders the tools and training they deserve,” Mayor Martin Walsh said in a statement. “I’m proud that we will be making key investments at Engine 17, and ensuring Boston continues to support all neighborhoods with the resources they need.”