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Orrington breaks ground on new public safety complex after years of controversy

Orrington's fire chief said the current fire station was built by volunteers in the 1950's and is "extremely outdated," making this project a necessity.

ORRINGTON, Maine — The ceremony started with a moment of silence.

"If we could start with a moment of silence for those first responders who wake up every day not knowing whether or not they're coming home," asked Dick Campbell, who until recently served as the chair of the Orrington options committee.

After an explosion in Farmington Monday morning killed a firefighter and injured half a dozen others, officials in Orrington began their groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday morning with an unscheduled moment of silence.

RELATED: Farmington explosion kills fire captain, injures 7 others, destroys facility

Then, the golden shovels came out to break ground on Orrington's new public safety complex.

"Big changes should start here this week," said Orrington's fire chief, Scott Stewart.

With the first shovel-full of dirt, construction began on the $2.85 million dollar project.

Stewart said the project should wrap up by the beginning of next Summer.

"The winter months will be exciting here watching the building get finalized," added Stewart.

The project came with a lot of public scrutiny though, leading to many other small towns also taking a hard look at the conditions of their fire houses and police stations.

"The process that was taken was very public," said Stewart, of five years of public meetings and public scrutiny.

"People had different opinions but we worked through it and we feel that this is probably the best example of a rural public safety building in the state," said Campbell.

He added that the majority vote on the final proposal for this building has "brought the town back together."

The new public safety complex will be built primarily as a fire house with room to accommodate local law enforcement from the state police and sheriff's departments who are paid to patrol the town.

"The fact that our people be safe is very important to me," said Stewart. "The health and safety of our people has to be number one. Those folks are our number one commodity. The fire service, in general, the firefighters are the most important piece of the puzzle and having them safe for years. We don't get sick today, we get sick years from now in the fire service, and this building addresses a lot of those concerns."