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Committee to host open house at Bartlett Village Fire Station


BARTLETT — An open house will be hosted from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday at the old Bartlett Village Fire Station by a feasibility study committee to outline a proposal to repair or replace the station with a new one.

“We invite everyone to come out and meet with us and take a look and ask questions,” said John Difeo, a lieutenant with the 24-member on-call Bartlett Fire Department and one of eight to man the village garage/station He is also chair of the study committee that has been meeting monthly since October. The group has submitted a petitioned article signed by 30 voters to fund a $60,000 feasibility study to appear on the warrant at the March 16 town meeting at 6:30 p.m. at Josiah Bartlett Elementary School.

Article No. 12 “seeks $60,000 to study the need for and the essential costs of constructing a new Bartlett Village Fire Station to replace the existing station located at 32 Albany Avenue. The following will be addressed within the feasibility study: identify potential locations, identify possible financing, develop preliminary overall project design and budget.”

But selectmen, citing inflationary factors, voted 3-0 against the article, with chair Gene Chandler, Vicki Garland and Gus Vincent contending this is not the year to fund such a study.

They say the current structures meet the needs of the village and the town, with those facilities consisting of the 1996-built Bartlett Fire Station in Glen and the village substation.

“We feel it is sufficient,” said Chandler. “We don’t feel a study is necessary right now. And the Glen station is in a fine central location, and it works well for the town. And we’re not sure what a study would do.”

He said the board works hard to keep costs down to manage the tax rate, which is set at $4.90 per thousand dollars valuation.

Garland said: “Our budget is up over 7 percent because of things we don’t necessarily have control over,” she told the Sun on Monday. “This just isn’t the year for a feasibility study.”

A call placed to Vincent was not returned as of press time.

Garland said there was a good turnout at the town’s Feb. 15 budget meeting, with many firefighters in attendance, including Difeo.

“I led the petitioned article. I am a resident of the village,” said Difeo, 54, who is a building contractor and has served as a Bartlett firefighter for four years after moving from Northwood to Bartlett six years ago.

Told of Chandler’s remarks about needing to exercise budgetary restraint, Difeo said, “That is Gene’s answer to a lot of things in town and historically kudos to him for keeping our taxes low.

“However, it is time to change. We had over 80 housing permits for new construction last year alone, and you look at the new homes, let alone condos that have been built over that time. The station (in the village) is too small; the engine there doesn’t have the size for the call volume that we respond to,” Difeo continued.

“It’s not just fires; it’s motor vehicle

accidents and anything that Carroll County dispatches to us for a response so we need multipurpose engines and other apparatus,” he said.

Fellow members of the study group include Bartlett Fire Chief Jeff Currier,a resident of North Conway; vice chair Dave Bartlett, a member of the department and resident of the village; secretary Jenn Robinson and several other department members.

Of the village substation, Currier said: “I do feel that we at least have to start the conversation about replacing it. It has outlived its usefulness.

“Right now, the only thing it can be used for is to store an engine, and it is 700 gallons and can’t carry the amount of water we need. We had a car fire on Cobb Farm Road recently, and we ran out of wter so we had to call the Glen Station for another engine, and also Jackson came as aid,” he said The garage also houses the department’s vintage Ford engine and in summer its forestry truck.

The group has received input from Allan Clark of REI Service Corp., who was the project manager for the new $6.7 million North Conway Fire Station that was built in 2020. Clark is an expert on fire station design and is the chief of the Sugar Hill Fire Department.

“Allan is very experienced, and he has volunteered his time to give us advice. He has been at some of our meetings — we meet the third Tuesday of every month at the Glen Fire Station from 6-8 p.m. and the public is always welcome,” said Difeo.

He said the $60,000 in the petitioned article “would be used to answer the questions raised by the budget hearing. The first phase should not exceed $20,000; the second phase will be in the $30,000$40,000 range to have plans and prices to go to the 2024 town meeting,” Difeo said.

Difeo offered a tour of the building Tuesday and said it has a hose to wash the engine but no sink. There are no shower facilities or bathrooms let alone separate facilities for female and male firefighters (of the eight firefighters assigned to the village garage, one is a woman, one of the five serving the department overall).

Currier and Difeo said the parcel the village garage sits on is probably not large enough to put in a septic system. There are other issues. “We have to pull the engine out to the middle of the road (Albany Avenue) to wash it with a hose,” said Currier.

As to the possibility of whether a new facility is in the cards, Currier said, “I am looking to five to eight years to build. Not tomorrow. But we could plan it in phases — one year to buy property (if that was determined to be the way to go); then septic; then construction phases.”

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