Land adds to Bristol firehouse cost

BRISTOL — Last week, members of the Bristol Fire Facility Committee learned the cost of a new firehouse. On Tuesday evening, that price tag went up when they learned how much the land under it would cost.
Bristol selectboard member Brian Fox presented the committee with a preliminary plan to purchase 9.03 acres for a price of $350,000. About three acres would be used for the site of the firehouse and an additional two acres has enough space to accommodate a septic system and could later be sold as a commercial lot to offset a bond that would pay for land, construction costs of the building and purchasing the building.
The total project estimate, combined with the cost of the land, brings the total preliminary cost to $3.19 million. Property owner Kevin Harper would pay for the initial construction. After completion, the town would pay for the building and the land.
At the meeting, Fox provided data on the 30-year bond’s effect on taxes:
•  A home valued at $100,000 would see an increase of $79.30 per year.
•  A home valued at $150,000 would see an increase of $118.95 per year.
•  A home valued at $200,000 would see an increase of $158.60 per year.
•  A home valued at $250,000 would see an increase of $188.25 per year.
Following Fox’s remarks, the committee worked through all 11 pages of the schematic estimate provided last week by Naylor & Breen Builders Inc., looking for potential cost savings. Committee Co-chairman Bill Elwell indicated that costs were already being kept to a minimum.
“It’s important to note that we’ve been cutting all along in this process,” he said during the meeting. “We’re trying to find something that’s going to meet our needs in the future but without a lot of extras.”
Many items were already required to comply with fire safety codes. Items marked for closer examination included costs for a kitchen for firefighters, number of windows and finishing the ceiling in the apparatus area.
Bristol Fire Chief Brett LaRose said the bond would not include any furnishing for the new firehouse, including gear lockers, kitchen appliances, personnel lockers and benches. While the department would take what they could from the existing fire station, fundraising would have to be done for any new equipment. Committee members said the lack of furnishings was one reason they were able to keep the total cost estimate down.
“It doesn’t make sense to finance a desk for 30 years,” Fox said.
LaRose was optimistic that any needs would be met.
“The fire department is very resourceful,” he said. “We will find a way.”
Committee members also acknowledged the anticipated increase in costs associated with maintaining a new building. With the exception of heating, Chief LaRose said maintenance costs for the current firehouse are low; as the building lacks a smoke alarm, alarm system or an elevator.
Naylor & Breen’s price estimate for site work received affirmation in the form of a close estimate from Tom Barden of Barden Inspection & Consulting Services Inc., which was hired by the town of Bristol to double-check the estimate produced by Naylor & Breen. In a letter to Bristol Town Clerk Therese Kirby dated May 15, Barden described a difference of $40,674 or 1.8 percent between his estimate of $2,166,849 and Naylor & Breen’s earlier estimate of $2,207,523 (a revised price estimate was issued on May 15).
“It is my opinion that this difference is an acceptable margin for a Schematic Design Estimate,” the letter read.
The committee will present the plans at a Bristol selectboard meeting on June 7 at 7 p.m. at the Bristol town office. A potential bond vote has been scheduled for July 7.
32 North Street
After moving plans for the new firehouse forward, the committee mulled several options deciding the fate of the old firehouse located at 32 North St., including selling the building with and without caveats, obtaining grants to keep and refurbish the building or dismantling the building and selling the timber.
Discussion around narrowing the options sought to strike a balance between a desire to see the building off of taxpayer hands and to provide voters with options.
Fox said putting caveats on the building’s sale (such a maintaining its appearance) might cause it to become a financial burden for the town while waiting for a buyer.
Committee member Elizabeth Herrmann acknowledged the immense costs associated with maintaining the 128-year-old firehouse.
I’m wearing two hats,” she said. “There’s one that says this building has some historic value but the other says it’s going to take a very special and unique person with a lot of vision and a lot of cash.”
The committee passed a recommendation to sell the building without caveats, which will go before the town as an exit poll at the bond vote. No size of a bond or date for a vote has been set, though a summertime date has been discussed.
If a bond is eventually approved, the question of what to do with 32 North St. will become an article on Bristol’s Town Meeting Day ballot.

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