July 1, 2009
Selectmen OK Fire Station Grant Application
$5 Million Grant:
Town would need to come up with another $1.5 million, plus additional costs for land acquisition


GOFFSTOWN - The Board of Selectmen voted to allow Fire Chief Richard O’Brien to apply for a federal grant to build a new, central station, a move that would decrease response time but cost the town additional money, during a meeting Monday.

The grant has a maximum allowance of $5 million, and does not cover administrative areas, landscaping, land acquisition or "soft costs." The new station, as planned, would cost about $6.4 million, not including any land acquisition costs, O’Brien said.

“If [the grant is] awarded, we would need approx $1.4 to $1.5 million in addition,” he said.

O’Brien said the grant process, part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, was competitive and applications were scored based on how many jobs the construction would create, the conditions of current facilities, and how the new station would expand fire coverage, O’Brien said. Points will also be awarded for environmental LEED certification and other factors, including 24-hour shifts.

The new station would not require additional staff, O’Brien said, but current staff would be used more efficiently.

The department has considered two sites for the new station: one near the police station on Mast Road, and the other on Elm Street on the east side of Goffstown, O’Brien said.

The Mast Road location would bring the response time for all of Pinardville, a densely-populated area with "high-risk" buildings such as large commercial properties and multi-family buildings, to less than 5 minutes. The Elm Street location would bring the response time in the growing eastern section of town, where there is currently an unmanned station, to less than 5 minutes.

Members of the board of selectmen raised concerns about the cost and about the feasibility of keeping four stations open, since either new location would overlap with existing fire stations. No specific station was named for closure, however, because no location had been chosen for the potential new station.

Chairman Scott Gross said that unless at least one station was closed, he would not be in favor of building the new station.

“Why we would need four is beyond me,” Gross said. Steve Fournier agreed.

The board voted to allow O’Brien to apply for the grant 3-1-0. Gross, Fournier and  Philip D’Avanza voted yes, with Vivian Blondeau voting against the motion.  Nick Campasano recused himself because he is writing a similar grant for Manchester.

“My vital concern is the economy,” Blondeau said. She said the town would likely end up having to spend closer to $2 million on the station, and would still have to pay for the upkeep of the other stations if the new one did not replace them.

But O’Brien said that response time, and the ability to get to an emergency in a town split by a river that could flood, were his main priorities.

“Is it realistic to say that we can have one central fire station and that’s going to meet our response time? I don’t think so,” he said.

Gross said that the $1.5 million that would be required of the town would be the cheapest a new station would likely ever cost, and he said the current stations are in poor condition.

“They’re inadequate, period,” he said. “Sometimes you have to invest money to make money.”

If the grant is awarded, it would be subject to a vote from the town on whether to accept it, and the costs that would come along with it.



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