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Initial Middelbury fire bond vote on Tuesday

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Posted on September 22, 2011 |
By John Flowers



View 1.jpg
AN ARTIST’S RENDERING shows the proposed plan for an expanded and renovated fire station on Middlebury’s Seymour Street. The first of two community-wide votes on the project is set for Sept. 27.

MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury voters on Tuesday, Sept. 27, will be asked to approve a $250,000 bond to complete final design and engineering plans for a substantial rebuild of the town’s fire stations on Seymour Street and in East Middlebury.

The Sept. 27 vote is a lead-in to a second, $4.625 million bond referendum to finance construction of the project, which will include extensive renovations and an 8,100-square-foot, four-bay addition for the Seymour Street station.

That second bond vote, to be held next March, would also pay for a new, smaller East Middlebury station that would be able to store two trucks and have a sprinkler system.

“The reaction we’ve seen has all been positive,” said Middlebury Fire Department Lt. Pat Shaw, chairman of the municipal fire station committee. “I think the taxpayers of the town of Middlebury have seen our needs.”

According to town and fire officials, the list of shortcomings is long: the Seymour Street station features overhead doors that are too few and too small to properly accommodate the new generation of fire trucks, while the building lacks a sprinkler system, access for disabled people, and adequate office space.

At the same time, the East Middlebury station is in disrepair, is not energy efficient, is larger than needed, does not have a sprinkler system, and also has overhead doors that are too small.

With the help of Bread Loaf Corp., the fire station committee spent almost two years assessing various replacement and renovation options at locations around town. The panel elected to keep the fire facilities at their current sites.

Specific plans include:

• Extensive renovations to the 1932 and 1978 sections of the Seymour Street station to make it more user-friendly, better insulated and more accessible to the public. The proposal also calls for an elevator and a sprinkler system.

The addition would safely accommodate the department’s fire trucks well into the future, according to fire officials.

Fire officials have worked out an agreement to purchase a small chunk of land from the neighboring Middlebury Community House and remove a small yellow cottage from that property in order to pave way for the new addition.

• Demolition of the East Middlebury station, which would be replaced by a 2,000-square-foot, wood-framed building that would feature two bays, a small bathroom and a 280-square-foot storage facility for the local fire district.

Goodro Lumber Co. Inc. on East Main Street has agreed to allow the fire department to store vehicles on its property during construction of the East Middlebury station, committee members noted.

Fire officials have explained their plans at numerous open houses and selectboard meetings, as well as through a Middlebury Community Television program and a mass mailing.

A final public information meeting will be held on Monday, Sept. 26 at 7 p.m. in the municipal gym. Australian ballot voting will take place from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sept. 27 at the town offices.

Town officials have crunched numbers showing how the 20-year payback for the $4.625-million project would affect local property taxpayers if the referendum is approved in March.

Those figures show the bond would add $19 in property taxes per $100,000 of assessed value during the first year of payback (2013). The bond payback would hit its highest point in year two (2014), requiring an extra levy of $57 per $100,000 in assessed value. The property tax effect of the bond would gradually decrease during the ensuing years of the bond issue, ending in 2033 with an impact of $28 per $100,000 in assessed value.

Peter Brakeley, spokesman for the fire station committee, has been pleased with the feedback he has received from the community about the project.

“Generally, I have not run into anyone who is against it,” Brakeley said. “I have heard some suggestions about (building) colors and putting in a couple of showers, but most people seem supportive of the project concept at both sites.”

While the project could still advance in wake of a “no” vote on Sept. 27, Brakeley noted that approving the initial request for $250,000 will ensure a swifter construction schedule (beginning next spring), thereby saving the town an estimated $260,000.

“I think that’s really important,” Brakeley said.

More information about the project can be found at the Middlebury Fire Department’s Web site, www. middleburyfiredept.org.

Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.

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