Bristol narrows its search for a fire facility

BRISTOL — Eleven proposed sites for the new location of the Bristol Fire Department’s headquarters have now been eliminated out of an original list of 31. The latest suggestion, that the station be built on two acres of town-owned property on Pine Street near the landfill and the highway department, was unanimously rejected by the selectboard at their Monday meeting. Board members rejected that site because of existing traffic problems on Pine Street and because town officials believe there aren’t two acres of unused land near the landfill site.
The remaining 10 of the eliminated sites were proposed at initial public meetings held on April 20 and May 4 at the American Legion in Bristol, then taken off the list out of respect to property owners.
These 10 property owners had responded to correspondence the town had sent to inform landowners that their property had been identified as potential sites for the new firehouse and to ask permission to keep those properties on the list. The town and the fire facility planning committee respected the wishes of those who asked for their properties to be withdrawn from consideration, said Brett LaRose, first assistant fire chief of the Bristol Fire Department and co-chair of the fire facility planning committee.
“The town is not considering the use of eminent domain at all for this project,” LaRose added.
The nine-person fire facility planning committee, which is made up of four citizens, four fire department members (and citizens), and Selectman Alan Huizinga, has been meeting every two weeks in recent months to sort through the 31 proposed sites and 33 criteria that the public had identified as important during the public forums in late April and early May.
The committee was formed after the defeat in March of a bond to renovate and expand the fire department’s headquarters at its current North Street location.
LaRose said that the committee’s “homework” for its upcoming meeting — which will be on Monday Aug. 19 at 7 p.m. in the town offices — has been to assess the most important of the 31 criteria that the community asked to see in proposed sites. The committee will discuss their findings and opinions at that meeting.
Frontrunners for criteria will probably include the proximity of the location to the Bristol village area and whether the flow of fire department vehicles through the area will be acceptable in relation the density of residences, among other things.
LaRose said it is too early in the process to discuss a specific timeline for site selection, with all the hard work the committee understands still needs to be completed. The earliest that Bristol voters could expect to field a bond vote would be Town Meeting Day 2014, and other town officials suggested the 2014 General Election would be more likely.
“We as a committee realize we have to be flexible,” LaRose said. “It will take as long as it needs to, to find a site all Bristol residents can like and be comfortable with for the next 100 years.”

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