General impressions to the contrary, construction of a new Bourne fire station on land currently owned by the county is not a fait accompli.
While the tract of land, which is in Cataumet, has been pinpointed as the likely spot for a new station, its supposed status as an optimal location has drawn scrutiny.
The committee charged with overseeing construction of a fire station south of the Cape Cod Canal now has unanimously approved requesting a study on response times from various potential locations for the new station.
A suggestion has also been made to have the study include whether Bourne should build two fire stations, rather than just one, on the south side of the canal.
Town officials previously proposed building a new fire station south of the canal to replace two Bourne Fire Department facilities: the existing station on Barlows Landing Road in Pocasset, as well as the call station in Monument Beach.
At its November 26 meeting, the South Side Fire Station Design and Feasibility Building Committee approved a motion to approach the Cape Cod Commission about conducting the study.
The committee agreed to seek a study of response times from four separate locations south of the canal. They include the 60-plus acre parcel of county-owned land off County Road in Pocasset; the town forest; the site of the current Pocasset station on Barlows Landing Road; and a location in Monument Beach.
The county-owned land off County Road had been touted by the building committee as the ideal location for the new station.
The one dissenting voice on the committee was former Bourne Fire Chief Martin Greene, who preferred locating the new station on town-owned property in the town forest. The Pocasset location was too far from the other villages, and did not meet national response time standards, he said.
“I don’t think there was any effort to address the additional response time,” he said. “These are national response times, from the National Fire Protection Association. They were not even looked at.”
Chief Greene recently resigned from the committee, citing his disagreement with the rest of the committee. In his resignation letter, he noted his struggle to “put a positive voice on what I believe personally and professionally” to be a poor selection for the new fire station’s location.
During discussion of Article 17 at Special Town Meeting in October, Bourne Finance Committee Chairman Mary Jane Mastrangelo advised further review of emergency response times.
That article asked for resident approval to negotiate buying the county-owned parcel, and appropriate $900,000 for the purchase. It was overwhelmingly approved in a 710-79 vote.
At Town Meeting, Ms. Mastrangelo said her own research showed that neither the county-owned land nor the site in the Town Forest would meet the national standards cited by Chief Greene. She called on the committee to do further research, and also explore the possibility that two stations south of the canal may be needed.
She reiterated those comments during the November 26 building committee meeting. In 2009, she said, the Cecil Group did an assessment of town facilities. The report mentioned combining the Pocasset and Monument Beach stations into one.
At the time, folks thought it was a terrific idea. However, she said, “There was never any real vetting about it.” When the county land became available, she said, concerns were raised over how quickly the department would be able to respond to an emergency from that site, she said.
“The kinds of questions that people asked were, if you go to the county land, you’re moving that much farther away from the high school,” she said. “We have three schools that are concentrated in that area, and that was a concern for the community.”
Bourne High School, Bourne Middle School, and the new Bourne Intermediate School are all off Trowbridge Road near the Bourne Bridge Rotary.
The land on County Road is owned by Barnstable County. The new fire station would require about five acres. The committee feels the town should acquire the entire 60-acre parcel and put the rest of the land to other uses, such as for a town dog park.
The town had an appraisal of the land done, but that amount has not yet been made public. Barnstable County Administrator Jack Yunits Jr. said that conveying the property to the Town of Bourne makes a lot of sense, and the county is more than willing to work with town officials on a sale.
Mr. Yunits also said that the county would consider selling just the five acres needed for the station, but it made more sense for the town to own the entire parcel.
The state Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance (DCAMM) has the right of first refusal on the County Road property. Town officials have said that indications are DCAMM is not interested in acquiring the parcel.