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Barre will vote again today about new fire hall

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 12 September 2017 at 8:10 am

File photo by Tom Rivers: Barre fire officials want to move out of the current fire hall, which fire officials say is cramped and too small for modern fire trucks. A proposition today asks for the community’s permission to borrow $2.52 million for a new firehall that would also function as a community center.

BARRE – Leaders of the Barre Fire District are trying for the third time today for authorization from the community to borrow $2.52 million to build a new fire hall with a community center.

Barre has twice before had votes on borrowing funds for the project. On June 4, 2014, the proposition was defeated, 249-114.

Barre had another vote on April 25 this year and the vote was closer, 188-137, but the proposition did not pass.

With today a primary in Barre – Sean Pogue and Robin Nacca are both seeking Republican support for town supervisor – Barre fire commissioners decided it would be a good day to put the borrowing proposition up for a vote.

The voting for the primary will be at the Town Hall. The proposition to borrow for a new fire hall will be at the current fire hall on Route 98 (4709 Oak Orchard Rd.). Voting is open from noon to 9 p.m. for all registered voters, not just Republicans.

The new building, in a long-term loan, won’t increase fire district taxes, said Barry Flansburg, one of the fire commissioners.

Fire commissioners don’t want to be forced to upgrade the existing building that is too small. The truck bays are too short to accommodate new fire trucks without costly modifications. Barre has to have its fire trucks retrofitted to be shorter and not as long as the regular specifications. That will be the case when the fire company replaces a 1990 pumper. That truck is 27 years old and should be replaced with a new vehicle soon, firefighters said.

Mark Farone, one of the fire commissioners, said a retrofitted new truck could add $200,000 to the truck costs.

Firefighters say the new building will improve fire service without raising taxes. The building also would function as a community center and Red Cross shelter in emergencies.

The proposed new fire hall has been expanded from the proposal in 2014 to include a community center after feedback from residents. That center will be available to community organizations, but not for wedding receptions and parties.

The main focus is to better accommodate fire trucks and equipment.

The current firehall has four bays with 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 costlier, adding about $100,000 to the cost, Farone said.

The Fire District is the taxing authority for the Barre Volunteer 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 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 could instead be used as the debt payment for the $2.5 million facility, which would be paid over 30 years. If the proposition passes today, the existing fire hall may be put up for sale.

Barre has about 40 active firefighters who responded to 209 calls in 2016.

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