Bow selectmen seek options after voters reject proposals to repair police, fire stations
BOW — The Board of Selectmen has work to do if members want to convince voters to spend money on addressing fire and police station code and space issues or build a safety complex next year.
On March 24, during the second half of the annual Town Meeting, voters rejected two proposals — a $4.6 million plan to renovate the existing fire station and community center and $1.7 million proposal to renovate the existing police station — by 483-6 and 484-8 votes, respectively. If approved, the warrants would have allowed the town to bring the buildings up to code.
On March 13, voters rejected a $6.8 million proposal by a 425-257 vote for a new public safety building to house the fire, police and emergency management departments. After nearly four hours, the meeting was continued to March 24 to decide on the remaining warrants.
Voters also rejected a petitioned $225,000 warrant to repair the fire/community building’s electrical wiring and kitchen venting system.
Selectmen have begun the discussion of where to head next, said Town Manager David Stack. The board is scheduled to discuss the matter at its next meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday April 8, at the Bow Municipal Building Meeting Room A.
“Unfortunately, no funding was approved by the town’s voters to do the amount of work that is needed to come into compliance with life safety codes and ADA requirements,” Stack said.
The town has until September 2016 to bring the fire station up to code, per an order from the state fire marshal. According to the fire marshal’s report last year, the major issues are crumbling asbestos walls, a consistently damp basement with standing water, vintage electrical wiring, no private area to meet with patients, pedestrian and vehicle traffic dangers, inadequate storage and office space, interior and exterior building decay and the lack of equipment decontamination areas. The garage overhead clearance is limited for fire engines.
In addition, the town spends about $12,000 a year to heat the fire station. In October, the town was able to move firefighters’ overnight living quarters to the rescue building in the back of the station.
“The fire marshal’s order is still in effect. They often give communities a three-year time period to come into compliance, which is the case with the order that has been issued to the town of Bow,” said Stack. “One of the most important items that needs to be done is to create a fire separation between the fire garage areas of the building and the assembly space on the community building side, including the walls and doors. This cannot be done without any funding.”
DPW in violation
The police station also contains the town’s Department of Public Works and must also be brought up to building, fire and safety codes and into compliance with the American Disability Act, said Stack. The facility was built in the 1980s as a public works building.
Voters also vetoed spending $50,000 on a community building options study and a proposal to allow the town manager to appoint the fire chief.
However, voters approved spending $190,000 for a new Public Works Department loader and allocating $150,000 to the library’s capital reserve fund and $65,000 to the fire truck capital reserve fund.
Last year, voters failed to approve a $7.7 million bond to build a 30,000-square-foot public safety facility by 20 votes.
Selectmen trimmed this year’s proposal in the hopes of gaining community support.