Litchfield budget committee opposes $5.5 million bond for fire stationBy KIMBERLY HOUGHTON
Union Leader Correspondent
January 15. 2018 9:46PM
LITCHFIELD — The town’s budget committee is not supporting a proposed $5.5 million bond for a new fire station.
On Thursday, the committee voted not to recommended the project with one member in favor of the bond and seven in opposition.
A warrant article was proposed for the March ballot asking voters to support the $5.5 million bond, which would cover the construction costs of a new, 10-bay fire station on town-owned property at Liberty Way next to the existing town offices.
“What I struggle with is, all in, it is $430 a square foot,” said budget committee member Dennis Miller. He said Hudson built a similar emergency services building on Lowell Road for $346 per square foot.
Others on the budget committee agreed that they cannot justify the $5.5 million price-tag.
One of the board’s biggest concerns was the future of the existing fire station at 257 Charles Bancroft Highway if the new facility was built.
“There has been no decision made on that building yet. We are taking input,” Brent Lemire, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, said during a public hearing on the proposed bond last week.
Others on the budget committee expressed the needs of the police department as well, and the need to minimize the overall costs of the project, in part because there are only two full-time firefighters on the force and other communities have been able to construct public safety complexes for significantly less; there are 38 local firefighters, however the majority of them are on-call employees.
“I really want to see it done. I think we have needed it for years,” resident George Lambert said during the public hearing last week. Still, he said residents are concerned because there is no official plan for the existing fire station once a new one is constructed.
Selectman John Brunelle said town officials are hopeful that once the project goes out to bid the total cost will be less than $5.5 million.
Town officials were set to meet with architects, engineers and planners on Monday to explore the possibility of adjusting the price tag of the project.
“The board appreciates the input and will perform due diligence in trying to bring a proposal forward that meets the needs of the department and the town,” Lemire said in an online statement.
Fire Chief Frank Fraitzl said the suggested location for a new fire station would provide faster response times to many sections of town. It will also enable all of the department’s apparatus to be housed inside, he explained.
“There is no space,” he said of the current facility. Gear is stored among the apparatus, the department is borrowing a nearby church hall for training and firefighters do not have a designated decontamination area, said Fraitzl.
“There is detail missing that would make it more comfortable to accept, or accept something else,” said Cindy Couture, chairman of the budget committee, who noted that nearly $1 million of the project was for site work.