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Bristol to cast first votes on new firehouse on March 5

BRISTOL — At Monday’s selectboard meeting, the town of Bristol went public with a proposed upgrade to the fire department facility on North Street, which Town Administrator Bill Bryant described as “a historic building in need of some TLC.”
Architects Ashar Nelson and Andrea Murphy of Vermont Integrated Architecture in Middlebury designed the proposed facility, which was voted for unanimously by the fire department. The proposed project would expand the facility, which was built in 1897, by purchasing one of the properties abutting the fire department’s North Street location, a residential building at 2 Garfield St. The town has signed a purchase and sales agreement with the property owners and put a $2,500 deposit on an estimated $250,000 sale.
With the purchase-and-sales agreement signed, the project goes to Bristol voters for approval. Voters will face a bond on Town Meeting Day that asks for an estimated $350,000 to $400,000 to cover the purchase of the Garfield Street property and fund the design of the new fire station, with a second bond vote for the construction of the facility expected to coincide with the 2014 General Election. The total project cost is estimated at $2 million to $2.5 million.
“It is a project similar in nature to what Middlebury has just done,” Bryant said in a Tuesday interview, explaining that the proposed design would rehabilitate and restore the historic 1897 building and add a large garage bay building and a connector between the two buildings.
“The site is ideal, in the heart of the village,” Bryant said. “The site has natural limitations, but the architect has come up with some creative solutions.”
In addition to adding off-street parking, the proposed design includes a public meeting space, and adequately meets the fire department’s need for additional space. Bryant described the current facility as “very tight.”
“It is just not state-of-the-art for today,” he said.
This proposal, which would add 10,000 square feet of much-needed space to the fire facility, has been six years in the making, Bryant explained. The need for an improved fire department facility was first recommended by a consultant hired to examine the town’s municipal buildings, after a vote on Town Meeting Day in 2006. The fire department took a back seat to the Holley Hall renovation project, but after Holley Hall was completed in 2011, town officials turned their attention back to the fire department facility.
The committee tasked with planning the new fire department facility is chaired by Assistant Fire Chief Brett LaRose, and also includes fire department members Lance Perlee, PJ Ryan, Kevin LaRose, Chris Griss; selectboard members Alan Huizenga and Sharon Compagna; Town Administrator Bill Bryant; and citizen-at-large Shawn Oxford.
On Thursday, Jan. 17, at 7 p.m., the selectboard will hold a special meeting in Holley Hall. Architect Ashar Nelson will present his concept design to the public.
There will be two open houses held at the North Street firehouse on Wednesday, Feb. 13, from 6 to 8 p.m., and on Saturday, Feb 16, from 9 to 11 a.m., so that Bristol residents can stroll through the firehouse and observe the space for themselves. Members of the committee will be present to answer questions and show people around.
Bryant hopes that Bristol residents will be curious about the historic elements of the building. “A lot of people have never been upstairs in the firehouse,” he said.
In addition, two public hearings for the first bond will be held, the first at the Monday, Feb. 25 selectboard meeting at 7 p.m. in Holley Hall, and the second at the March 4 Town Meeting Day preview at a time to be determined.

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