The Mattapoisett Board of Selectmen meeting held on April 23 was an opportunity for the community to hear a comprehensive presentation for the proposed new fire station.
Three presenters each took an aspect of the new construction project focusing on matters that will undoubtedly be aired when Town Meeting is asked to approve the spending next month.
First up was Fire Chief Andrew Murray who told the story of the firehouse from its earliest days in the 1950s to the 21stcentury concerns and issues the building and the staff are facing.
Murray honed in on the unsafe conditions the building itself presents to the firefighters, a long list that includes no decontamination capabilities from secure locations for contaminated gear; a lack of a shower; no vehicle exhaust system to keep exhaust fumes from permeating the structure; no ventilation systems; outdated heating, electrical, and plumbing systems; insufficient toilet facilities; no first floor space for public interactions; no handicap accessibility; a substandard kitchen; no sleeping accommodations; and no training areas.
Next up was Chairman of the Fire Station Building Committee Michael Hickey. Hickey took the audience through the complexities of selecting the owners’ project manager (OPM), Vertex, and an architect, Context. The committee also had to make site visits throughout the state to study newly constructed fire stations, talk with fire chiefs and town management teams to ascertain the processes they used during the pre-construction phases, and had to learn first-hand what they would have done differently.
Calling it “an elaborate process,” Hickey said, “We went through it three times,” referring to assessing space requirements. Each time the OPM and architect were sent back to the drawing board to squeeze out costs while preserving the “must have” items that had been identified. Even with that, the disparity of the estimates between the two firms was troubling.
In the end, the teams came up with a two-story building measuring 16,000 square feet that includes all mandated safety features as well as 4.5 bays with a drive-through for vehicles, dorm rooms, first-floor handicap access, 49-seat training space, public lobby, indoor training facilities, and a fitness room.
Town Administrator Michael Gagne gave the most complicated part of the evening’s presentation – the matter of funding the $9,275,000 project.
Gagne likened the financing to a “three-legged stool”, one that included new growth from solar PILOT (Payment In Lieu Of Taxes) programs, retiring debt, and a moderate Proposition 2 ½ override that would cost the average homeowner $13.38 per year.
“It’s very doable,” Gagne said. He pointed to retiring debt as the biggest contributor to the financing plan with some $8 million freed up within the next six years.
Gagne also said that the town had made a commitment to defer new growth revenue into a fund that is earmarked for other capital projects with sums of over $150,000 per year becoming available. Thus, other capital items would not be negatively impacted by bonding a new fire station, he projected.
The proposed new fire station must go through the final stages of the capital improvement process and must pass at the Annual Town Meeting.
In other business, Gagne said that on Thursday, May 2 at 9:00 am at the YMCA Camp entrance located at the end of Reservation Road, there would be a ceremonial ground breaking for Phase 1b of the Mattapoisett Bike Path. He encouraged the public to join in this much-anticipated event, which has taken 20 years to realize.
On the subject of energy savings, Gagne said he had been in contact with Eversource regarding a buyout of the 375 lamps throughout town. The cost for the depreciated lamps is $17,000. However, grants are available, he said, that could cover up to 35 percent for the purchase of energy saving equipment. Presently the town pays $50,000 per year for street lighting.
In other business, the board will be selecting members for a search committee for Gagne’s replacement. The board voted to establish a committee that would be comprised of at least one senior citizen, a Finance Committee member, a staff member from the town’s financial department, and two citizens at large. Gagne said the town administrator’s position will be advertised beginning in May.
A Class II Used Auto Dealer’s License was granted to Jerry Pinto.
Town Moderator John Eklund asked voters interested in presenting “substantive amendments” to get those motions to him for town counsel review ahead of Town Meeting. He said such documents could be submitted to the town clerk. He also said that if anyone planned on using a PowerPoint presentation that those must be reviewed prior to Town Meeting to ensure they adhere to a 10-minute length and may also be given to the town clerk.
Town meeting is May 13 at 6:30 pm in the Old Rochester Regional High School auditorium. Annual town elections will be held on May 21 from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm at Old Hammondtown School.
The next meeting of the Mattapoisett Board of Selectmen is scheduled for May 14 at 6:30 pm in the town hall conference room.
Mattapoisett Board of Selectmen
By Marilou Newell