Barre Fire District will try again for new fire hall
$2.5 million project also includes community center
BARRE – A proposal for a new firehall that would also have a community center will go before Barre residents in a vote on April 25.
The $2.5 million project would give the Barre Volunteer Fire Company much needed space for fire trucks and the new building would also have a community room with space for 140 people.
The Barre Fire District tried to get the public’s support for a new fire hall on June 4, 2014, but the proposition to borrow $1.4 million was voted down, 249-114.
Fire District officials heard from many in the community that residents wanted a community center to be part of the project, and not just a facility to keep fire trucks, said Mark Farone, one of the commissioners for the Fire District.
The addition of a community center should increase the chances for the project to receive state and federal funding, Farone said. The building would be a designated Red Cross shelter with a full kitchen, four bathrooms total, and a laundry machine.
The space could also be rented to community organizations such as churches, the Red Cross, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.
Fire District leaders say the current firehall is outdated for a modern fire department. The four bays in the firehall have doors that are 10 feet tall. Many of the modern fire trucks are 10 feet, 2 inches tall. Barre had to have its most recent fire truck special ordered so it was 9 feet, 6 inches in height. That made the truck more costly, adding about $100,000 to the cost, Farone said.
When some departments fill in for Barre because Barre firefighters are on a call, the other departments often can’t fit their fire trucks inside the Barre firehall.
The fire trucks are bigger these days because manufacturers have combined two trucks into one, such as Barre’s new pumper-rescue truck. Combining the trucks means Barre doesn’t need two crews to go with a truck, just one. Dual-purpose trucks helps with the manpower issues many volunteer fire companies are facing.
Barre has about 40 active firefighters who responded to 209 calls in 2016. There are also another 60 people who are social members or active in the Ladies Auxiliary.
The Fire District is the taxing authority for the Fire Company. The fire company provides the personnel, and the fire district finances the trucks and equipment. The current firehall is owned by the Fire Company. The new one, if approved by residents, would be owned by the Fire District.
The district currently pays an annual fee to the Fire Company for using the old firehall. That payment would instead be used as the debt payment for the $2.5 million facility, which would be paid over 30 years.
The annual debt payment is expected to be about what the Fire District is currently paying the Fire Company. (The Fire Company’s members would decide the fate of the old firehall. It could be put up for sale and could be used as an auto repair garage or for another business, past chief Jerry Bentley said.)
The Fire District needs voter approval before it can proceed with likely grants for the project, as well as construction bids.
There are currently low-interest rates for borrowing, and a lender would agree to a 30-year arrangement for a new building, said Barry Flansburg, the Fire District secretary/treasurer.
If the project is voted down, Flansburg fears firefighters will be stuck trying to upgrade the current building,, without a low-interest loan stretched over three decades. Instead, it would likely take a loan to be paid in a short-term loan. That could actually result in a higher annual cost for taxpayers, while firefighters are still tied to an undersized facility.
The Fire District has the land secured for the project. keeler Construction owns the vacant land, north of the current fire hall.
Firefighters are holding open houses to discuss the project every Tuesday at the current fire hall from 6 to 8 p.m. until the vote on April 25. The Fire District is working on the final arrangements for the vote with the Orleans County Board of Elections. Flansburg said the voting time will be announced soon.
If the project passes on Aril 25, Flansburg said design, approvals and permits would take about six months. Construction could start in the spring of 2018.
A letter to the community from the Fire District and Fire Company says the truck and equipment storage is similar in size to 2014 proposal but now includes community center and additional parking. The letter states the following positives with the proposed new building:
• Centrally located along Route 98;
• 5,700 square feet of space for fire truck and storage area with five truck bays, a private office for the fire chief, dispatch office, equipment storage, breakdown, lockers, laundry, kitchenette and a bathroom;
• 3,300 square feet for community center with full kitchen and bathrooms that can be used for disaster relief/emergency shelter and also for community meetings;
• Masonry construction with insulated metal siding and standing seam metal roof;
• Energy-efficient design with radiant floor heating system;
• Asphalt parking and driveways with overflow stone parking area;
• Concrete pads in front of overhead doors;
• Onsite utilities (septic, water, electric, gas, storm water);
• Grant applications are in progress and will be submitted with voter approval of the project.