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Bristol narrows fire station site search

BRISTOL — The Bristol Fire Facility Site Selection Committee has narrowed the list of sites it is examining for a new fire station to six.
But members of the committee don’t expect to make enough progress toward finding a suitable site to present it to the Bristol selectboard in time to get the issue before voters next Town Meeting Day.
The Site Selection Committee, which was formed after the defeat in March of a bond to study renovation and expansion of the fire department’s headquarters at its current North Street location, met at Holley Hall Monday evening to discuss the remaining sites being considered for the new firehouse.
Eight of nine members of the Site Selection Committee were present, along with Sue Kavanagh and Willow Wheelock of the Bristol Planning Commission and eight members of the public.
The committee has been weighing 33 sites originally under consideration since the group was formed this past spring. The final six, ranked in order of preference, are:
1. Recreation Club property on West Street.
2. Nelson property on West Street.
3. Shepard and Recreation Club property on West Street.
4. Bristol Fire Station with Bilson property on North Street.
5. Bristol Fire Station with Bilson and Vince property on North Street.
6. Bouvier Property at 128 and 130 North St.
Town residents created a list of 31 criteria to evaluate the sites. Many were eliminated because property owners did not want to consider selling. The town will not seek to acquire a site using eminent domain.
Committee Co-chair Brett LaRose said he did not expect the committee would have a site recommended by Town Meeting Day next year. However, he hoped to present the final three sites to the selectboard in December or January.
The committee discussed with Planning Commission member Sue Kavanagh whether or not the six remaining sites fit within the Bristol Town Plan and town zoning regulations. Kavanagh said she did not have enough information about some of the sites, like the Nelson Property on West Street. Further discussion about zoning regulations will occur at a later date.
As the process of choosing a site is still in its early stages, no negotiations or discussions of sale have occurred between town officials and property owners, LaRose said.
Bristol firefighter P.J. Ryan expressed concern that the new site would have enough space to expand in the future, should the department find it necessary to add another vehicle.
“Already we’ve downsized from two engines to one — we lost both an engine and a tanker,” Ryan said.
The Site Selection Committee hopes to find a site upon which a 13,000-square-foot structure can be built. Currently, the Bristol Fire Department houses its six apparatus at separate locations, including one that is privately owned. In total, the fire department currently owns or leases slightly more than 6,000 square feet of space.
The committee debated what site was most cost-effective for the town.
“I think cost is important to a lot of voters,” said Kevin LaRose, another Bristol firefighter. “We need to take that into consideration when considering options for expansion down the road.”
During the public forum portion of the meeting, town resident Porter Knight questioned the lack of information the committee had about the Nelson Property on West Street.
“If this site is your number two choice, why can’t you go to Mr. Nelson and ask him about it directly?” Knight asked the committee.
“As Brett LaRose, I would be fine with that,” Brett LaRose said. “But as chair of this committee I feel I’d be overstepping my bounds and going against the wishes of the selectboard.”
In a phone interview Tuesday, LaRose added that the selectboard had been talking with the Nelsons, and he did not want to interfere with that discussion.
After a resident asked how long the siting and construction process would take, Brett LaRose said, “A few years, at minimum.” He added the project would probably require two bond measures — one to purchase the land the new firehouse would occupy and another to pay for construction of the building.
The committee will reconvene on Oct. 28. The eventual goal of the committee is to find a suitable site and present it to the selectboard, LaRose said.
“Whatever we end up doing, we want to conform to the town plan,” he said. 

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