Hyannis Fire District Voters Approve Design Work For New Station

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By: James Kinsella
Published: 05/20/11

Residents in the Hyannis Fire District voted at Wednesday’s annual meeting to approve architectural, engineering and owner project management services for the design of a new central fire station.

By a vote of 53-5, residents approved borrowing $675,000 to fund the services.

Fire District commissioner Richard J. Gallagher called the services a key step to construction of a new station, which he has said could be completed by the spring of 2014.

Before the borrowing vote, however, district residents on a voice vote defeated an amendment that would have capped design and construction costs at $8 million, and required the appointment of a citizens advisory committee to monitor the project.

The meeting was held at the Pope John Paul II High School in Hyannis.District officials have proposed building an enlarged central fire station on and near the site of the existing station at 95 High School Road Extension.

At last year’s annual meeting, voters approved buying three adjacent properties to the current fire station for $2.79 million.

Taken together, the four parcels would create a three-acre campus for a new fire station.

That the Hyannis Fire Department needs a new fire station was not in dispute Wednesday evening.

Since construction of the existing station in 1965, Mr. Gallagher, the chairman of the fire district building committee, said the demands on and the size of the department have grown.

In 1965, Mr. Gallagher said, the department had three full-time firefighters and nine pieces of apparatus, and responded to 530 calls.

In 2010, he said, the department had 59 full-time personnel, 24 pieces of apparatus, and responded to 6,114 calls.

The present station, Mr. Gallagher said, is overcrowded and its condition is deteriorating.

District officials, he said, want to build a new fire station that can meet the needs of the district for the next 50-plus years.

Now that the district has acquired land for an expansion, the district board of commissioners called on voters to approve preliminary engineering and architectural services to design a new station, and to hire an owner’s project manager who will guide the building committee in its recommendations and cost estimate for a new station.

Getting to an estimated cost of a proposed station will be a necessary step before bringing the project back before the voters.

At present, Mr. Gallagher said, “We do not know yet what the cost of the project will be…. The process will take us there.”

But district resident Deborah L. Krau did not like that approach.

She proposed an amendment from the floor to cap the cost of the new station, including the design services, at $8 million.

As part of the amendment, she proposed that the district commissioners appoint a seven-member citizens advisory committee, no one of which would be connected to the fire department, to work with the building committee on the project.

Ms. Krau said she came up with the $8 million figure as a rough multiple of the requested design costs of $675,000.

She said construction project costs typically include about 10 percent for design work.

She also said that $8 million need not be a firm number, but could be adjusted.

Without some sort of construction spending cap, however, she questioned whether the project would draw enough support from district residents.

She depicted a scenario where the preliminary design process comes back with a construction estimate number judged too high by district residents.

At that point, she said, the design money would have been spent for naught.

What the amendment was saying, Ms. Krau said, “is you can’t have a blank check.”

But Paul R. Sullivan, chairman of the board of commissioners, replied that the proposal did not involve a blank check.

District residents, he said, ultimately would decide whether to approve or reject the size of a spending proposal to build a new station.

Mr. Gallagher further said the building committee now would expand to involve residents and commercial property owners to get their input as the process moves along.

Hyannis Fire Chief Harold Brunelle asked voters to vote down the amendment, which he said could interfere with what the fire district needed to accomplish for a new station.

But district resident Peter L. Cross said Ms. Krau’s amendment was reasonable.

“Build trust, build consensus,” Mr. Cross said. “If you need more money, come back and ask us.”

The amendment, however, failed on a voice vote.

Discussion then ensued on the original proposal.

District resident Laura T. Cronin questioned whether designing a station for the next 50 years was too ambitious, especially given the current state of the economy.

She said designing a station for the next 20 to 25 years was a more reasonable request of district taxpayers.

“Get what you need and not what you want,” she said.

District residents, however, proceeded to vote 53-5 in favor of the proposal, which needed at least two-thirds majority to pass because it involved borrowing.

The debate over the preliminary services took about an hour during the 90-minute meeting.

Most of the other proposals before the voters passed on unanimous voice votes.

Voters approved pending $6.86 million for incidental and current expenses, a line item that includes salaries and operational costs in the fire department and across the district for the fiscal year that starts July 1; spending $784,000 for firefighter overtime; setting aside $761,576 for the district retirement fund; and spending $151,000 for street lighting, power and maintenance in the district.At the district’s annual election, which was held Tuesday at the fire station, residents reelected Mr. Gallagher, who was unopposed, to a three-year term on the board of commissioners with 67 votes, no blanks and no write-ins.

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