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Bow voters reject proposal to overhaul fire station

The future of Bow’s fire station is still hazy. At the second part of town meeting last night, residents rejected all remaining proposals to repair the outdated building and with no options left, tried unsuccessfully to pass an amendment that would appropriate money for a new design study.

“If we can’t amend this, we walk out of here with no path,” said resident Arthur Cunningham.

In the first vote of last night’s meeting, residents turned down a $225,000 proposal put on the warrant by petition to fix the fire/community building’s electrical wiring and kitchen venting system.

“I think that’s the tip of the iceberg,” said resident John Urdi, one of several residents who voiced concern the proposal didn’t address all the building’s issues. “My feeling is once you open up the walls . . . it just goes on and on and on. It’s not worth the money as far as I am concerned.”

Supporters said the fixes would help make progress. It’s “a step to get the due diligence of taking things apart and figuring out what needs to be done long term,” said resident Jim Hoffman.

Next, voters almost unanimously defeated separate proposals to renovate the current fire and police stations to bring them up to code, by ballot votes of 483-6 and 484-8, respectively. That plan would have cost a combined $6.4 million and was not recommended by the budget committee or the board of selectmen.

Ten days earlier, at the first part of town meeting, residents overwhelmingly rejected a $6.8 million proposal to construct a brand new building that would have consolidated the fire, police and emergency management departments under one roof. At last year’s town meeting, residents rejected a similar proposal that was $1 million more expensive.

During the four-hour gathering, many residents called on town officials to come back next year with a cheaper plan.

“A show of hands of who would support a new safety center that came in at $4.6 million,” said resident Don Berube, as several voters tentatively raised their hands. If this year’s proposed public safety building came in at that cost, he said, “it probably would have passed.”

The town has until September 2016 to bring the fire station entirely up to code, according to a mandate set forth by the state fire marshal.

“We should go back to the drawing table,” said resident Richard Heath. “The town of New Hampton did it for under $3 million. It can be done.”

The problem, the selectmen said, is that there is no money for further study. “To get engineers, to design and to give you hard numbers . . . there just hasn’t been any money appropriated to do that,” said Jack Crisp, chairman of the selectmen. “We just won’t have those professionals to work with during the coming year to design something and work on this.”

To remedy that, a resident proposed an amendment to Article 7 to spend $250,000 on the design of a new fire department, community center and public safety building. Many residents said the amount was too high, and the moderator raised concern that straying so far from the original purpose of the article could make the vote invalid. It was overwhelmingly defeated before residents rejected the article as written: to spend $50,000 on a community building options study. They also rejected a proposal to have the town manager appoint the fire chief.

Voters did approve spending $190,000 on a new loader for the public works department and adding $150,000 to the library lower level capital reserve fund. First, voters rejected the addition to the library fund by a tally of 182-179, but after voting to reconsider, approved it by a vote of 206-178. By one vote, the town approved adding $65,000 to the fire truck capital reserve fund.

Last night, 493 voters checked in at the meeting. Attendance was significantly lower than the first part of the meeting, when more than 700 residents packed into the auditorium.

The meeting adjourned just before 11 p.m. with a cheer and some claps from the voters.

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

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