The Recorder – Up to $3M for Fire Station addition approved in Bernardston

BERNARDSTON — Voters in Monday’s election passed a ballot question that will officially allow the town to pursue construction of a Fire Station addition with a four-bay garage, parking lot and office space.

Question 2 on the ballot, which sought a debt exclusion to pay for the bond needed to construct the addition, passed with a vote of 133 to 68, according to Town Clerk Christina Slocum-Wysk.

Voters approved borrowing up to $3 million for the project during the second night of two consecutive Annual Town Meeting days last week, though the Selectboard and architect predict the cost will be closer to $2.4 million.

According to Finance Committee Chair Jane Dutcher, a $3 million loan would be paid off over 40 years at 2.25 percent interest. Selectboard Chair Stanley Garland noted the interest rate on this loan would be locked, and there is no penalty for paying off the loan early.

Fire Chief Peter Shedd spoke during the Annual Town Meeting last week in support of expanding the Fire Station, which he said he has been pushing for since the mid-1990s. Shedd and members of the Fire Department and Selectboard have held numerous meetings with Brian DeVriese, an architect from Jablonski DeVriese Architects who designed the station proposal.

“I’m pretty chipper,” Shedd said Tuesday morning, after learning Question 2 had passed. “We’re not getting anything elaborate. The walls, except for the office space, will be unfinished, but the extra space is the big thing for me. We’ll be able to move around the trucks safely, without running into each other.”

The existing Fire Station at 18 Church St. is about 2,500 square feet, and the addition on the adjacent property at 12 Church St. would be about 5,500 square feet. The current station, which was built in the 1970s, is outdated and has grown crowded to a point where it is a “hazard,” Shedd has said, as firefighters have limited space to maneuver around vehicles and equipment. The current station also has no storage space for equipment while the addition will include a storage area as well as office and administrative space.

Another big improvement, Shedd said, is that the addition will have an exhaust system to draw exhaust fumes from vehicles out of the building. This is something the existing station is lacking. He said this will improve health safety for firefighters, and “make it a cleaner environment” overall.

Shedd thanked voters for their support of the addition, and said the Selectboard now needs to vote to move forward with construction. The Selectboard is expected to discuss the process during its next meeting, which hasn’t been scheduled yet.

Question 1 also passed by a vote of 155 to 46. This question asked residents to approve a debt exclusion for the bonds needed to replace the Highway Department’s 2007 GMC plow truck with a Freightliner chassis and snow plow equipment.

Out of 1,741 registered voters, Monday’s election saw a total of 205 ballots cast with 18 of those being absentee ballots, making for a roughly 11.8 percent voter turnout. All incumbents were re-elected. A one-year seat on the Recreation Commission, for which no one was on the ballot, remains unclaimed as no one received a majority with write-in votes.

“Several people had only one write-in vote, so no one had a majority,” Slocum-Wysk explained Tuesday morning.

She said she will call those who were written in, and confirm if they would like to accept the position.

The elected positions, all carrying three-year terms, are as follows:

■Board of Assessors — Russell Deane, incumbent

■Board of Heath — Barbara Killeen, incumbent

■Constable — Peter Shedd, incumbent

■Cushman Library trustees — Cathryn Thomas and Karen Fitzpatrick, incumbents, as well as new candidates Jeane Backinski and Kelly Guertin

■Powers Institute trustees — Kenneth Bordewick, Janice Deane and Louella Atherton, incumbents, as well as new candidate Janet Wrightson

■Recreation Commission — Cardin Clayton, incumbent

■Selectboard — Stanley Garland, incumbent

Zack DeLuca can be reached at or 413-930-4579.

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