TOWNSEND -- Fire Chief Donald Klein presented a plan to build an $11.3 million fire station headquarters to the Finance and Capital Planning Committees Oct. 3.
The new headquarters is a long-needed project that would serve West and Central Townsend, be more energy-efficient and provide more space, Klein said.
"We've put some things off for so long that everything's starting to catch up with us," Klein said.
The Fire Department operates out of five buildings, some of which date to the 1800s. Building a new headquarters would allow the town to potentially sell some of the other stations, with the Harbor Station remaining in use, said Klein.
Klein said the Fire Department is hoping to purchase a 6-acre parcel of land on Scales Lane from the Townsend Ridge Country Club, though a price has not yet been negotiated.
The $11.3 million figure is a maximum projected cost, Klein said, and takes into account a variety of expenses that could crop up. However, by the time the town would actually be able to go out to bid eight months to a year from now, the costs could be different.
"I tried to build in all kinds of contingencies knowing that some of them might be needed and some, hopefully, might not be needed," Klein said.
Town Administrator Andrew Sheehan said the sooner the project is approved, the better chance it has of coming in under cost.
"It's not going to get any cheaper to borrow, just as it's not going to get any cheaper to build. The time to move on the project is now," Sheehan said.
Building Committee member Bill Elliott said although he understands that the town is facing high costs in the coming months, with the construction of a new high school and a renewed focus on road repair, the building of a new station has already been delayed too long.
"This is long overdue. We've got to figure out something to do so the Fire Department can continue providing a service," Elliott said. "It's just a shame that it all has to come at the same time."
Finance and Capital Planning Committee member Carolyn Smart said she supports building a new station, but is worried that the town is not in a position to borrow right now since its bond rating was withdrawn this summer.
"I'm not really thrilled with the $11.3 million price tag, but nobody is. My nervousness is only in relation to other issues going on in the town and not knowing what the interest rate might be," Smart said.
Sheehan said by the time the town would potentially have to borrow, its bond rating should be restored.
The Building Committee is hoping to have the project put on the warrant for Special Town Meeting in November so a debt exclusion could be voted on in April's annual election. But to do that, Smart said, the Capital Planning Committee would have to vote to add the project to its capital plan. The committee will meet Oct. 17 to make that decision.
Elliott said not bringing the project to Special Town Meeting would further delay the construction process, something that the Fire Department can't afford.
"There's no way we can protect this town efficiently with these buildings," Elliott said. "Every time we push it off like that, it just puts us deeper in a hole."
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