For several years the Shelburne Fire and Rescue departments have argued the importance of building a new, collaborative facility.
The departments hope the town will take a huge step toward making that dream a reality, asking voters to approve Article 6 on the ballot. This would allow for a $1.12 million bond to buy property where a fire and rescue station could be built.
The money would buy a 2.23-acre lot next to Rice Lumber diagonally across Shelburne Road from Dunkin’.
Fire Chief Jerry Ouimet and Rescue Chief Jacob Leopold attended the Shelburne selectboard meeting on Feb. 9 to show a promotional video produced to attract volunteers and to make a pitch for the new facility.
Town Manager Lee Krohn said around a year and half ago Healthy Living Market and Café approached the town about buying this part of a larger parcel. Healthy Living hopes to buy the rest of the parcel to build a grocery store and café.
Krohn said it’s possible Healthy Living didn’t know that in 2007 the town had identified that location as great spot to build a combined fire and rescue building.
Ouimet told the selectboard the fire and rescue departments work, run calls and train together.
“It just seems to make sense so we can use our resources and our assets to the best of our abilities,” Ouimet said.
He said the fire station is 35-40 years old and the fire department has outgrown this building in the last 15-20 years.
Having a new building for both fire and rescue would set both departments up for serving the town for 50 or more years, Ouimet said. The facility would be big enough to handle 95 percent of the fire department’s training.
The rescue department’s building situation is even more dire than the fire department’s, Krohn said in phone conversation.
Leopold said the building Shelburne rescue occupies now on Turtle Lane was built in 1988 and was intended as a temporary location for only five or 10 years.
Over the more than 30 years, in the rescue department’s temporary location, the building has been expanded several times to accommodate the growing department.
The building has probably had more additions than it probably should have, Leopold said, Now, it can’t be expanded more because it’s on protected lands.
Upkeep is a challenge. The rescue station has had issues including electrical, water, pests and even floor buckling when too many people are upstairs, Leopold said.
There’s not enough parking. Leopold said the town highway department has been patient with the rescue department when its parking is blocked by rescue department members attending training.
“Having a lovely space to spend 24 hours at a time is a real benefit to volunteers,” Leopold said. About half of the Shelburne rescue volunteers live outside of Shelburne. There is almost always a crew at the department seven days a week, 24 hours a day. Out-of-town volunteers aren’t allowed to go home when they are working.
During the pandemic the rescue department ran out of space and had to convert a training space into a bedroom. “That’s not ideal,” Leopold said.
The call volume is going up every year. Even during the pandemic year of 2020, the rescue department set a new record for the number of calls, he said.
The cost of the building “cannot be determined at this time,” the ballot article says.
The building could cost between $6-$9 million, Krohn said. “It will be an expensive building no doubt.”
The $1.12 million would be for $650,000 to buy the land from Rice Lumber of which $470,000 is Shelburne’s share of the infrastructure costs. Infrastructure costs include access drive, water, sewer, other utilities and contingencies above actual estimated costs, Krohn said.
If there are additional costs beyond that Healthy Living has committed to covering those, he said.
If the bond is approved all residents will face an estimated 0.0047 tax rate on their property tax starting July 1. For example, if a resident’s property is valued at $100,000, they will pay $4.70 per year.
Other articles on the ballot
• Articles 1-3 are standard articles about the report of the town officers and the auditors, setting compensation for the selectboard members of $1,500 for the chair and $1,200 for the rest and to elect town officers.
• Article 4 is approving the adoption of the select board’s proposed budget of almost $9.6 million with over $7.3 million coming from taxes.
• Article 5 is whether voters want the town to contribute $50,000 to natural resources and the open space with any unused portion going to the Open Space Fund.
Lilly Young is a member of the Community News Service.