DUMMERSTON — Community members and the Select Board gathered for yet another informational meeting on Wednesday about the new fire station proposed for West Dummerston which goes to voters on Tuesday, Aug. 9.
Assistant Fire Chief Richard Cogliano updated attendees where the department is with the process and informed citizens about the urge to vote "yes" for the project now so that construction can begin before another Vermont winter strikes. Several people spoke up, noting the impact on taxes if a five-year loan, totaling $150,000 to $170,000, is borrowed for the project. Others,such as members from the fire department and concerned citizens argued that delaying the project means additional time tacked on as a safety hazard to the firefighters at the current station.
For the last five or six years the West Dummerston Volunteer Fire Department has discussed building a new fire station because the current station has been "suffering," according to Cogliano. He noted there are structural, water and mildew problems. As a result of the water leakage, there is wear and tear on the firefighter gear, which may be a hazard to firefighters' safety. The structural problem limits Engine Two from properly fitting into the station, in addition to other Mutual Aid engines that cover the station when West Dummerston is out on the scene.
"There are a whole host of reasons why we're looking to replace the station. We've been talking about it for the last five or six years, coming up with a design and how we want to do this," Cogliano said.
According to speakers at the informational meeting, the bank will not set an interest rate until the town votes on the loan, however there is an estimate of 2.2 to 2.3 percent interest. At the meeting a mock payment plan for the center fire station replacement was created, with tax increase estimates based on a property valued at $200,000 and with a loan interest of 2.75 percent. If the total amount borrow is $170,000, the additional taxes on such a property over five years will be $140.13 (the tax amount is projected to decrease after each fiscal year.). For a loan amount of $160,000, the total additional taxes on a $200,000 property over five years would be $131.88. For a loan of $150,000, the total additional taxes on a $200,000 property would be $123.64
According the presentation, at this point the project has received $7,875 in donations, which may impact what size loan the town will need to sign off on for the project and ultimately alleviate some tax stress. Some Select Board members and attendees noted they are willing to provide a "substantial" check for the capital campaign.
Some questions and concerns from attendees centered around the fire station earning its 501c3 (non-profit) status. Cogliano said there is some paperwork underway and it may take about six months to earn this status.
Dummerston resident Mary Lou Schmidt spoke up and asked for the opinions of the Select Board on this upcoming vote. All provided their take on the project is some shape or form.
"My perspective is, this could wait based on when they need the building, and until having the money and next Town Meeting in March," said Select Board member Hugh Worden. "In a nutshell, I know that's how I feel. Again, they've been working on this for a long time, I understand that, I think we kind of have an avenue now to reduce the loan amount that we're going to have to ask for, and based on the need and the fact that we're already coming to the end of construction season so to speak, I think this could be properly handled at the next Town Meeting when it has been warned, discussed and voted on."
Select Board member Joe Cook noted there is "no doubt" that there is a need for a new fire station, but he believes it should wait until it earns its non-profit status and when more money is raised. Cook added that he and his wife plan to make a "substantial" contribution. Cook also referenced an article he wrote that said the fire department has raised more than $105,000 to defray the construction costs.
Steve Glabach, a Select Board member who has two family members at the department, said he would like to see the community donate out of generosity rather than imposing the cost through taxes. Select Board member Jerelyn Wilson noted the positive communication process between the Select Board and the members of the fire station. Chairman Zeke Goodband said he has already written his check for the capital campaign.
Goodband noted the vote for August 9 is warned as asking to borrow up to $175,000, but Goodband said if it passes, it will hopefully be a lot less than that by the time the town needs to start "drawing" from that amount.
Cogliano said the station construction cost will not exceed $280,000 and the fire department has raised about 37 percent of that cost up front. He adds that the operating budget is around $85,000 to $88,000 each year, and the volunteers raise $35,000 each year to run the department.
"We don't ask for a lot, we ask for very, very little, we ask for just what we need to get by and not even all of that," Cogliano said.
Maddi Shaw can be reached at 802-254 2311 ext 275