Vote yes for new Barre fire hall

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


Photo by Tom Rivers – The current fire hall for the Barre Volunteer Fire Company was built as an addition to a schoolhouse in 1961. Firefighters say the site is cramped and many modern fire trucks are too long or tall to fit inside and have to be retrofitted to squeeze into the Barre hall.

BARRE – Look around Orleans County in the past decade and consider how some towns have worked to put new assets in play for the betterment of town residents.

I think the Town of Barre has done a lot. The new town park is the envy of the county. The town hall has been renovated and expanded. New waterlines have gone in.

Barre is Orleans County’s least populous town with 2,025 residents, but it is doing big things, and it wants to do more.

Today town residents will vote on whether the Barre Fire District has permission to borrow up to $1.4 million for a new fire hall on Route 98, north of the existing site by the Barre water tower.

Firefighters tell me the vote is controversial. Many residents want them to “make do.” The firefighters say it’s about 50-50 whether it will pass. Residents should support the project, should support their volunteer firefighters and should vote yes to make their community stronger – and safer.

Barre fire officials say the new 7,300-square-foot building will require about $50,000 more in taxes each year. That amount was already added to the taxes for 2014. With that increase Barre residents this year are paying a fire protection tax rate of $1.45 per $1,000 of assessed property.

That seems about the going rate in Orleans County for volunteer fire companies. In Kendall, property owners pay a $1.38 rate for the Kendall Fire Department and $1.55 for the Morton Fire Department. In Murray, the rate is $1.61 for the Holley Fire District and $1.59 for Fancher-Hulberton-Murray.

Other rates includes $1.44 for Shelby, $1.26 for Ridgeway, $1.00 for Clarendon and 65 cents for Carlton.

A proposed new Barre fire hall would be 7,300 square feet with five bays and rooms for meeting and training.

Barre, with the new firehall, would be cheaper than several fire districts. The $1.4 million represents a worst-case scenario. The Barre Fire District expects it will be able to secure some grants for the project, especially for the energy efficiency features.

Doing nothing and staying in the existing building may prove more costly in the long run. The fire trucks are squeezed tight in the building. The building is too small for many modern fire trucks.

The new building could accommodate five fire vehicles, a meeting/training room and radio room. There would be three front bays and two drive-through bays out the back entrance doors.

The existing firehall was built in 1961 as an expansion to an old schoolhouse. The Barre Fire Company has made the building work for 53 years.

But firefighters say the new building would be much more user-friendly, and would meet their needs for at least the next half century.

It would also be another sign of a community moving forward. It would be an asset to the Route 98 corridor.

Today’s vote is from 3 to 9 p.m. at the fire hall.