Barre proposes new $1.5M fire hall
Public vote hasn’t been scheduled for project on 98
By Sue Cook, staff reporter
BARRE – The Barre Fire District is proposing a new fire hall that fire commissioners say will actually save money in the long run, rather than staying in the existing site on Route 98.
The new fire hall is estimated to cost $1.55 million with $1.25 million for construction and $300,000 for soft costs (planning, engineering, land purchase, etc.). A capital fund contribution would cover $150,000 of that. The remaining share would be paid by local taxpayers at $1.4 million although grants could lower that cost.
The proposed new location is farther north on Route 98 on the west side of the road, a little past the Barre Town Park. Fire District officials have already spoken to Keeler Construction, which owns the land and has given verbal approval to sell the property if the proposed fire hall is approved by taxpayers.
“The idea is to have a long-lasting building, a 50-year-plus building,” said Tom Carpenter of Clark Patterson Lee of Rochester.
Carpenter and fire commissioners discussed the project during a public meeting on Wednesday night.
The new building would be 7,300 square feet. It would have five truck bays, three on the front and two on the back. This will allow two of the lanes to be pull-through. There would also be more space for all the storage and other room that are lacking in the current building.
“It’s going to be very energy efficient and have lower life-cycle loss like some other construction types like you might have,” Carpenter said.
The building would be masonry construction with insulated metal siding and a standing seam metal roof. Energy efficiency has also been incorporated into the proposed structure. There would be radiant-heat flooring. The building was also designed at an angle to the road to prevent westerly winds from sucking out all of the heated air.
If grants are approved, solar panels could also be added to the structure. There would also be asphalt driveways and parking and concrete pads for truck parking in front of the bay doors. On-site utilities of septic, water, electric, gas and storm water have also been incorporated into the proposed design.
Last year the Barre Fire Company responded to 246 calls. Without their statistics in front of them, Fire Company leaders estimate that 60 percent were emergency medical services and 40 percent were fires and other incidents. The number varies from year to year depending on disasters and weather, such as ice storms.
The current hall was built in 1960 as an addition to a schoolhouse from 1910. The hall currently needs repairs and a roof replacement. It is also too small for standard-sized fire vehicles. The most recently purchased truck cost an extra $100,000 to be custom created to fit inside the small, short space available inside the current fire hall.
There is also limited space for offices, storage, equipment and HVAC. The site also has limited handicapped accessibility.
There is also no fire suppression system inside the current building, which contains old wiring, so a fire inside the current fire hall could result in a loss of all the trucks if they were unable to be removed in time.
Grants are unable to be applied for until a proposal is approved. If taxpayers say yes to a plan, the fire district can then apply for grant money that reduce the costs.
“This process is similar to doing a water district,” said Fire Company Treasurer Barry Flansburg. “All the estimates on everything are considered high so that the goal is we tell you, in theory, the worst possible scenario. This is the highest possible cost.”
The current yearly budget for paying the loans that the district would incur is $65,000. The fire company (which supplies the manpower for the district) currently gets $15,000 in rent for the use of the current hall by the district (which is responsible for providing the services), which would be moved to use for the new building’s construction and mortgage.
Taxes were also raised by the district and were already reflected in this year’s January statements that add the other $50,000 to the total. Homeowners with a $100,000 assessment saw an increase from $1.07 to $1.45 on their tax bill. Next year, that will decrease to $1.39 with no changes in assessment.
Estimates for maintaining the current building average out to nearly the same. However, the department says the maintenance would be ongoing and costly. Many of the costs would come as a lump sum requirement, such as the roof replacement, instead of a cost spread out over a 30-year loan period with the proposal for the new building.
They also say that taxpayers should consider the cost of vehicles into their decision, too, reminding them that the custom-sized vehicles are significantly more expensive and need to be replaced as the insurance company requires new standards.
While the department had considered rebuilding in the space that the hall is currently in, Fire Company leaders are not finding this to be a possibility. The driveway on the south side of the building belongs to a different property owner and the driveway on the north side has the water line from the water tower running directly underneath of it.
The current space also would not easily contain many of the new features and required standards that are being proposed with the new building, including the possibility of containing larger trucks. The trucks would also need some form of storage during the construction.
The district will own the building, opposed to the company. This means that the taxpayers will own the building. It will not have public space and is not open to the public due to laws requiring the building being for the function of firefighting only.
The fire company will retain ownership of the current building and will vote and decide what they would like to do with it later if the approval is given for new construction. Fire officials have discussed the possibility of using the space for fundraising or other events since the trucks would not require the space and the doors along the front could be sealed.
Other considered locations for the new firehall were either too expensive or not right for the fire company. The Barre Town Park was rejected because during sporting events the driveway would become clogged and the fire trucks would not be able to get out.
A second driveway would be unable to be added due to laws about driveways added to state highways. The proposed new location would have the main driveway for the fire station and Keeler Construction has agreed to share their connected driveway in the event the fire department needs it.
“It’s very important and we want to answer as many questions as we can,” Flansburg said. “We’re still available to talk to. We want to hear your feedback. The commissioners want to know. They’ll decide if they want to wait a month or two to vote.”
The fire commissioners have meetings at 8 p.m. on the first Tuesday of every month in the current fire hall. The meetings are open to the public. They will be meeting next Tuesday and will be deciding when the vote will be for the proposal.
Once they have made a decision, they will send a notification letter to all registered Barre voters informing when the vote will be. The approval will require at least a 51 percent yes vote, regardless of the voter turn-out numbers.
If approval is given by the taxpayers, the district will begin to apply for grants and loans. They will also finalize architectural plans with Clark Patterson Lee. Public bidding would begin in the winter and if a bid is approved, the construction phase would start in spring 2015 and could be finished as early as fall 2015.