SWANZEY — The town is scheduled to hold public bond hearings Wednesday, including one for the proposed new fire station that has been shot down four times before.
The $2.8 million bond would help fund a new fire station at 321 Old Homestead Highway to replace Station 2, which is underneath the town offices.
The town has two other fire stations: Station 1 in East Swanzey and Station 3 in West Swanzey.
This is the fifth time since 2015 that Swanzey has included an article for a new fire station in the town-meeting warrant. It will require a three-fifths supermajority vote.
“The Board of Selectmen remains committed to getting a new fire station approved and getting Fire Station #2 out of the basement of Town Hall,” Town Administrator Michael Branley said in an email to The Sentinel. “The need for this modern, safe, and adequately sized station has not changed and I hope the community will support the project and move Swanzey forward.”
The hearing is scheduled for 6 p.m. at Whitcomb Hall on Main Street. People can also participate in the meetings via Zoom by going to zoom.us, downloading the Zoom smartphone app, or by calling 1(929)205-6099 and entering Meeting ID 235 370 4380#. Anyone needing assistance with tuning in can contact Branley at 603-352-7411, extension 107, or by emailing email@example.com.
According to the draft warrant, the total project cost is expected to be $3,575,000. In addition to the bond, $200,000 would be raised through taxes and $575,000 through the undesignated fund balance and grants.
Under the proposed plan, a section of the roughly 12,000-square-foot station would remain unfinished to reduce overall cost, according to Branley. It’s the same plan that was proposed last year, he said, before voters chose to amend the article at the deliberative session to increase the cost. That article failed at the polls in March after winning a simple majority but falling short of the required supermajority (625-495).
Wednesday’s hearing will be the latest in the saga that has spanned several years.
Station 2 was built in the 1960s, according to Fire Chief Bill Gould. With barely enough room to squeeze in today’s firetrucks, no space for on-site training, and code-compliance issues, the station fails to meet many of the requirements of a modern firehouse, he said.
Cross-contamination is also a problem at Station 2 (as well as at the other two stations), where there isn’t a distinct and separate place to clean and dry gear, Gould said, which can have long-term health effects for firefighters.
“Today we come back from a call, everything just gets piled into one area,” Gould said. “... So that’s what we’re trying to eliminate in the future. When they talk about cancer in the fire service, that’s the very root of where it begins.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cancer is the leading cause of death among firefighters. (January is Firefighter Cancer Awareness Month.)
“Hopefully it gets passed,” Gould said of the proposed $2.8 million bond.
Two other bonds will also be up for discussion at Wednesday’s public hearings, including one for the Upper Wilson Pond Dam Project and another to stabilize Webber Hill Road.
A public hearing about the town’s 2022 proposed operating budget and warrant articles will follow the bond hearings.