A search committee has recommended that the town put its new fire station on land off County Road in Cataumet.
The land, an 80-plus-acre parcel, is owned by Barnstable County.
The new fire station would require about five acres. The committee said the town could acquire the entire parcel and place the rest of the land to other uses.
On Monday, the South Side Fire Station Design and Feasibility Building Committee voted 5-1 to adopt the County Road site as the preferred site of the new station. Former Bourne Fire Chief Martin Greene cast the dissenting vote.
The land contains the old Barnstable County Hospital complex.
Committee chairman Galon L. (Skip) Barlow said that there are other uses for the rest of the parcel that make it appealing to the town. One such use, he said, would be for a town dog park that has been proposed for several years, and which is also searching for an appropriate location in town.
Mr. Barlow said the committee accepted the recommendations of both the project manager Joseph Sullivan of Daedelus Projects out of Boston, and Kenny + Kenny Architects of Falmouth, the architectural firm hired to design the new building. Both advised the committee to approve the County Road site.
Other sites that were under consideration by a location subcommittee included the town-owned property on Barlows Landing Road where the current fire station is located. That site was dismissed because it would have meant taking up a nearby ball field in order to move the station out of the flood zone.
It was suggested that the ball field could be moved from its current location to a 43-acre parcel off Shore Road. However, some residents balked at that idea and argued that the ball field is well used in its current location and should not be moved somewhere else.
An area of the Bourne Town Forest in Pocasset was also given consideration, Mr. Barlow said. However, it was dismissed for a couple of reasons, he said.
Developing the town forest property would cost $1 to $2 million more than will the recommended location, where much of the necessary infrastructure is already in place.
Also, the town would have to purchase mitigation land to offset development of land in the town forest.
“So it’s an easier site to work with,” Mr. Barlow said of the County Road property.
Chief Greene said he dissented because he felt that it would take too long for firefighters to respond to fires in the other villages south of the canal from the Cataumet site. He pointed out that the idea was to replace stations in Pocasset and Monument Beach. The town forest site, while it poses challenges to develop, would be more centrally located, he said.
“A fire doubles in size every minute,” the chief said.
The longer it takes to reach the fire, the bigger it will grow, posing an increased risk to both residents and firefighters.
He also noted that Bourne’s 2018 Town Report indicated the fire department made 2,274 calls to areas south of the canal. Of that 2,274, only 209, or less than 10 percent, were to Cataumet.
“Not that the Cataumet Village, residents and guests are not important,” he said. “I felt, since we are combining the two stations, it would be best to maintain effective response times to find a spot between the two existing.”
The site search for the new fire station has taken close to two years. Finding the right location has been part of the feasibility committee’s work since its inception in October 2017. A year later, the committee formed a subcommittee that was tasked with exploring options and making a recommendation to the larger committee.
Mr. Barlow said the search took so long because it seemed that every parcel given consideration ran up against some other interest in that property, such as the ball field behind the current Pocasset station.
“It was hard to get a site that didn’t interfere with other uses,” he said. “This has the path of least resistance.”
Mr. Barlow said that construction of the new station has been estimated at $7.5 to $8 million. The town had an appraisal of the land done, but that amount has not been made public record.
Barnstable County Administrator Jack Yunits Jr. said the county had the property appraised two years ago. Mr. Yunits acknowledged that Bourne subsequently had its own appraisal done, and that there was about a $200,000 differential between the two appraisals. Bourne’s, he said, came in higher because the town owns a conservation restriction on the land.
Mr. Yunits said that ownership of the property by the Town of Bourne makes a lot of sense, and the county is more than willing to work with town officials on a sale. He added 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.
“We’ll make it work for the town,” he said.
Committee member Peter J. Meier said the cost to acquire the land will be made public when the fire station group goes before the Bourne Finance Committee.
Mr. Meier said that two separate articles, both pertaining to the south side fire station, will be on the warrant for Special Town Meeting scheduled for Monday, October 21.
The first article will request approval to purchase the land designated specifically for the new fire station. The second article will request approval of purchasing the remaining land as open space.
Town Administrator Thomas M. Guerino said the financing for the purchase has yet to be worked out. Mr. Guerino said he anticipates it will be a combination of free cash, Community Preservation Act funds, and some capital stabilization funding, as well.
Although the state Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance [DCAMM] has the right of first refusal on the County Road property, Mr. Meier said indications are DCAMM is not interested in acquiring the parcel.
Once the town receives a letter confirming the agency is not interested, he said, “We will exercise our right, provided we can come to agreement on terms.”
Mr. Yunits said he wrote to DCAMM a month ago asking about the agency’s interest in the property. There has been no response, he said. He speculated that Massachusetts Governor Charles D. Baker Jr. is looking to divest property, not acquire, so a sale from the county to the state is unlikely.
“I don’t see that happening,” he said. “We would have heard from DCAMM by now.”
The cost to build the new station was originally estimated at approximately $6 million, and was anticipated to be made part of an annual town operating budget. Mr. Barlow said that costs have escalated and the project is now estimated in the $8 million range. He said it was uncertain if the plan is still in place to factor the cost into an annual budget.
The new station will take the place of the current station on Barlows Landing Road, as well as the call fire station on Thomas Philbrick Road in Monument Beach. Bourne Fire Chief Norman P. Sylvester has said that both facilities are outdated, and beyond being either restored or retrofitted.
The Pocasset station is in a flood zone and has a sump pump running constantly to keep the basement dry. The floor on which department vehicles, such as fire engines and ambulances, are parked has been damaged over the years by water. The department is now limited in how much weight can be placed on it.
The call station dates back to the early 1900s, and, like the Barlows Landing station, is too small to adequately fit the size of modern firefighting vehicles. Also, both buildings do not meet Americans With Disabilities Act regulations.