Barre voters resoundingly reject new fire hall

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 4 June 2014 at 12:00 am

Referendum to borrow $1.4M goes down, 249-114

Photo by Tom Rivers – Barre firefighters wait after 9 tonight at the Barre fire hall for the results of today’s referendum, seeking permission to borrow up to $1.4 million for a new fire hall.

BARRE – Town residents overwhelming voted down a proposition today that would have authorized the Barre Fire District to borrow up to $1.4 million towards a new fire hall.

The proposal was soundly rejected, 249 to 114.

“That number scared people,” Barry Flansburg, the Fire District treasurer, said about the $1.4 million.

Barre firefighters took the vote in stride.

“I was expecting it to be a lot closer, but we’re still going to be here,” said Nic Elliott, 21. “We’ll still get on the trucks and we’ll have guys who will risk their lives for the town.”

The Fire District wants to leave the existing hall, which was built as an addition in 1961 to a schoolhouse. The building’s truck bays and space are small, forcing some fire trucks to be specially built at a higher cost, fire officials said.

Elliott, a firefighter the past three years, said firefighters don’t have adequate space to train. One of the fire vehicles, a pickup brush truck, is parked out back in an unheated pole barn.

Flansburg said firefighters need to work harder at educating the public about the shortcomings of the existing building, and the financial implications of staying in the current site that needs a new roof and other repairs.

“This vote was to build a new building or fix an old dilapidated one,” Elliott said. “It wasn’t about building a Taj Mahal. It was about making something functional for the firefighters.”

The building is owned by the Barre Fire Company. President Karl Driesel said the board will soon meet to discuss the existing building and what needs to be done in the short-term.

The fire commissioners for the Fire District will meet Tuesday to discuss their next steps.

The Fire District already budgeted a $50,000 increase for 2014. Flansburg said misinformation may have swayed the vote about borrowing the money for a new fire hall. He heard from people who thought there was another tax increase, when that money was already set aside for 2014 and wouldn’t go up again as part of a 30-year loan.

“I think it’s great that we had this many people turn out,” Flansburg said. “We can do it again, but maybe next time we need to do a better job of letting people know the facts.”