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Bow at a crossroads as selectmen move forward on fire station plan

After at least three study committees, some $300,000 in spending and still no town approved solutions on how to fix the outdated Bow fire station, the selectmen are starting to navigate a new path forward.

Since town meeting, the board has met twice and discussed running listening sessions in order to hear what residents want to do and organize another committee to devise a new plan.

“We need to push the reset button,” said Selectman Eric Anderson. “In pushing it, I think we need to reconvene with our community.”

The selectmen haven’t nailed down any specifics yet, in part because the full board couldn’t attend last week’s meeting. But Town Manager David Stack said the group will decide how to proceed at its next session April 22.

“Our role as selectmen is simply to do what the town directs us to do. At the town meeting, we really got no direction other than they didn’t want what we gave them,” said Jill Hadaway, selectmen chairwoman. “Before we can do anything, we have to get folks together to talk about it.”

For the second year in a row at town meeting, residents rejected a plan to construct a public safety building to house the fire and police stations. This year, residents also voted down two separate proposals to fix up the fire building where it stood and an amendment proposed from the floor to allocate money for future construction plans.

Now, uncertainty looms. Without any funds appropriated to pay for new designs or studies, it is unclear what kind of solutions selectmen and any committee could come up with and, perhaps more importantly, what kind of solution residents can agree upon.

The key, said several selectmen, is town participation. “If we have a community issue of this magnitude, we need the community involved in the process,” Anderson said.

Time is also a factor. The state fire marshal has mandated Bow’s fire station be brought up to code by September 2016. To comply, the town already moved the firefighters’ living quarters to the rescue building that sits behind the fire station. That set the town back $46,000, and the selectmen still need to decide where that money will come from in this year’s budget, Stack said.

Also in play is next year’s budget process, which begins in the fall. “Whatever solution they come up with, to go get more design money or to try to allocate ‘X’ amount at the next town meeting,” Stack said, “we need to know that number at the end of September.”

And looking further into the future still, constructing a public safety building is phase one of the Bow town center plan adopted in the 1990s.

“If there is a consensus in town now we don’t want a town center, we need to determine that and modify accordingly,” said Selectman Jack Crisp. “It’s a question of what people want.”

(Allie Morris can be reached at 369-3307 or at amorris@cmonitor.com.)

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