Water leaking through rusted-out drains in the roof has wrecked much of what's inside of Magnolia's almost 90-year-old fire station.
Now, the city has put aside some money to fix it.
Some $44,000 of a $1.5 million loan for capital items will go toward repairing the station's roof.
That's not the only project aimed at preventing the structure from deteriorating any further than it has. The Department of Public Works also spent $3,500 on repairs to the station's boiler, city figures show.
While conceding that the station needs all the help it can get, Deputy Fire Chief Steve Aiello says the city can't keep spending money on a building it doesn't use.
Magnolia station hasn't been open since Tropical Storm Irene passed through the area in late August. And nightly reports indicate that the station is rarely open at all. That's due to the minimum staffing requirements included under the firefighters' union contract — and the fact that Magnolia's station is the first to close when staffing is short.
Currently, only one of the Fire Department's four shifts has the required manpower, 18, to ever keep it open. Yet, it takes firefighters and paramedics longer to get to Magnolia than anywhere else in Gloucester - provided the Bay View Fire Station's open, response statistics show.
Aiello said the city should look at a way to provide better coverage, either by opening Magnolia Station or crafting a new model of fire response. If the city wants to stay with a three station model, it still needs to address response to Magnolia, he said. In the meantime, he said, the roof still needs fixing.
"The source of 95 percent of all (building) troubles are leaky roofs," said Jim Hayfe, the Department of Public Works facilities manager.
With winter coming, said Hayfe, the city needs to keep the building dry and the pipes from freezing, that includes fixing the boiler and the roof. While work on the boiler will finish before the end of the month, Hayfe said, he's not sure when Public Works will fix the roof.
Hayfe said he'd like to have it done this fiscal year, but isn't sure the weather will cooperate. As for the building's interior, he said, the Fire Department is cleaning it out.
Phil Bouchie, the firefighter's union president, said firefighters cleared a dumpster's worth of moldy furniture out of the station. With the damage the building has sustained, however, Bouchie said he isn't sure when firefighters will be able to use it.
"Hard to say when it will be usable, and hard to see when there will be enough staff to keep it open," said Bouchie.
Without staff in the station, it will continue to fall into disrepair, Aiello said.
"The firefighters on duty do daily cleaning and maintenance; when nobody's there to do daily cleaning and maintenance, things build up," he said.
Bouchie said the department needs 72 firefighters to keep that station open on every shift. Right now, the department, he said, has 70 line firefighters, including some out on injury leave.
With two new firefighters coming on in the next few weeks, more shifts should be up to keeping the outskirt station open.
Steven Fletcher may be contacted at 1-978-283-7000 x3455, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @stevengdt.