Cumberland Fire District in favor of rebuilding Station 2

Cumberland Fire District in favor of rebuilding Station 2

Station 2 at 1530 Mendon Road poses the most challenges for the fire district according to Chief Kenneth Finlay, including cramped quarters, mold, and drainage issues.
New roundabouts on Diamond Hill Road expected to increase wear and tear on department

CUMBERLAND – Commissioners with the Cumberland Fire District say they have few options other than to support a plan to build a new Fire Station 2 on Mendon Road.

Speaking at an informational meeting Jan. 27, board members said their only plan, if voters don’t approve a $3 million bond to build a new station this fall, is to tear the station back to its shell and do a renovation that’s almost as expensive as a complete rebuild. Such work would also need to go to voters, they said.

While commissioners held off on sending the station replacement plan to Cumberland voters to decide, they said they expect to do so in the coming weeks. They plan to run a public relations campaign showing why the new station is needed.

District members stuck to their estimates of a fire tax rate increase of 8 to 10 cents on the fire tax rate. Fire Chief Kenneth Finlay and Fire District Chairwoman Cindy Ouellette said that estimate is based on debt service payments of between $250,000 and $300,000 per year over 15 to 20 years.

Asked what other factors could potentially bump fire taxes higher in coming years, Finlay said there are a number of potentially significant items facing the district, including increased electricity costs and a new fire contract coming in 2019.

Commissioner Paul Santoro asked what it would take to build a station that could accommodate all fire district offices, including tax collections and executive offices, as Finlay was initially looking to do, but Finlay said the price tag of building that 10,000-square-foot facility would be $4.5 million, far too high for a district looking to keep its debt costs down.

Finlay, answering questions from The Breeze on cost, said he continues to try for various grants to help offset the cost of the station replacement, but so far has been unsuccessful. Fewer fire grants are available, and most aren’t available for facility work, he said. There is more competition than ever for national fire grants, he said.

The district has a capital fund for improvements to buildings, but Finlay and Ouellette said they want to maintain that fund for other projects, including new kitchens and other upgrades at fire stations. The entire reserve fund, with money taken out last year to buy a new ladder truck, stands at about $80,000, said Finlay.

The Jan. 27 meeting was not meant for “picking colors” or other details of the station, but to discuss the big picture of whether the committee supports moving forward with a replacement plan and “where we want to go in Cumberland,” said Ouellette.

Commissioners said they were surprised during a tour of Station 2 just how much the structure has deteriorated, with evidence of mold prevalent.

Finlay said the station at the intersection of Mendon Road and Route 116, at the Lincoln town line, is in “deplorable” condition.

“Sand arrester” devices were never installed in the fire station, meaning drains were clogged with sand and long since abandoned, said Finlay. Everything is now swept out the front door. State plow trucks use the parking lot as a turnaround, leaving extra salt behind, which is then brought into the station as trucks pull in. Fire personnel aren’t allowed to be on the second floor of the station if they’re going to be sleeping, said Finlay, because of the lack of ability to exit quickly.

Adding further wear and tear to the station will be the increased demands on the department by the planned addition of two new roundabouts by the Rhode Island Department of Transportation at the intersection of Diamond Hill Road and Route 295, said Finlay and fire commissioners.

Some commissioners joked that the district should simply park a truck near the intersection to respond to all the accidents that are expected after the road is reconfigured. They said accidents should diminish over time, as motorists grow accustomed to the new traffic structures, but said the situation could get messy short term.

Asked whether they believe Cumberland residents who don’t live inside Station 2 service boundaries would want to approve building a new fire station, Finlay and Ouellette said the town relies on mutual aid from multiple stations for many emergency calls. The overall health of the department is important to the entire town.

Because Station 2 is located within a historic district, the design would be subject to approval by the Historic District Commission. Town experts said a new structure, replacing what was originally a 1960 corrugated steel building, would be much “more sympathetic with Ashton,” with brick incorporated into it. The goal would not be to make it look like an old building in the village, but to fit it into the overall look of the area. Functionality and modern firefighting standards are important, said Jonathan Stevens, the town’s director of planning and community development.

Commissioner Santoro said the district has to keep costs low on the project because of its limited budget of $7.8 million.

“Every dime we’re spending has to be accounted for,” he said.

The district can’t ignore the problems at Station 2, said Santoro and others, as the building presents safety and firefighting challenges.

David Horton, of Aharonian and Associates architects, said the new station would have a slightly larger footprint than the current one, and be somewhat pushed back from the road, making it easier for trucks to pull in and out.

The town received an initial appraisal of $55,000 on a small piece of state land behind the station that would be purchased to help accommodate a new station. Kelley Morris, legal counsel to the fire board, said the town went for a second appraisal and the price came down to $44,000. State officials said they couldn’t move below that price without another appraisal, she said, but an appraiser told officials they would be wasting their money to try to get the value down lower than $44,000.

Comments

If I understand, the taxpayers can either pay to build a new station, or they can pay to refurbish the old station. And, although every dime they’re spending has to be accounted for, the taxpayers can be sure that they will spend each and every single one of them. So, the question is not whether the taxpayers will pay, it is how the money will be appropriated. Because, the decision makers have already decided for us that there are no other viable alternatives. And, as always, if the taxpayers don’t give them what they demand, then we will be punished, ridiculed, and/or forced to comply. I watched what happened in neighboring Attleboro with the fire station on route 123 near Read Street. First, they scared the taxpayers into believing that it was a matter of life and death because everyone was in imminent danger. Then, after they replaced the 2-bay station with a modern monstrosity of a structure, they pointed out that the station would not protect the taxpayers, and it would now be necessary to fill this new facility with the best fire apparatus and, of course, highly trained personnel to operate it. But, if the taxpayers don’t support this, then they must be against protecting the community. Just once, I’d like to see some logic and truth invoked during these discussions, instead of scare tactics used in a rush to grab the money.

Having grown up in a town in MA with the same population and literally the exact same size to the tenth of a square mile that had TWO fire departments which provided excellent coverage and response time, it is INSANE to me how many FDs we have in Cumberland. The merger was great, still too many buildings to staff and build and repair. One north of 295, one south, call it a day.

Usually if a drain is clogged you unclog it. If their is mold you eradicate it then investigate the cause and repair it not build a new building. gee if that the case they would have to rebuild most cities. If the station was on fire would you let it burn? just saying.

So true. If they cared about imminent danger they would put some money into the roadways that are not wide enough to accommodate the use of fire apparatus, since they were not smart enough or care enough to enforce building regulations that were put in place to protect the community in the first place. New buildings are not going to save anyone on the second floor of burning buildings while they wait for fire fighters to run down those narrow street with ladders.

The Fire Committee never met anything new they didn't like.My understanding is that Rescue HQ is going to the new Public Safety building. Hold off on the new firehouse until after the 2019 contract is settled.

I thought the FD was part of the new public safety complex? Isn't that what the taxpayers voted for? I see their logo on the banner hanging on the construction site.

Todd needs to reread the articles about the public
Safety building and take the time to look at the building plans he will find that this only office space for the fire chief and that there is no space
For storage of equipment or parking for the fire trucks. . Furthermore there is no firefighter bunk rooms and accomendations. It’s just a fancy name for police station. One should research before writing

The term public safety complex is a term that the
former Mayor McKee came up with to get the taxpayer
to vote to approve the bonding/building. Once again
It’s a mirror game. There is no doubt that the police
Need a new building with increase size as it has grown
since it’s current building which was built 1960-1962