PARIS – Selectmen, hoping for a good turnout, set this year’s town meeting for 9 a.m. Saturday, June 21, at the new fire station on Western Avenue.

Construction of the station is virtually finished, and it’s a safe bet that construction of a parking lot should be completed by June 21.

A Saturday meeting was thought to have a chance for a better turnout than a weekday evening meeting, and holding it fairly early in the day might bring out more voters than at 1 p.m., which was the initial proposed time.

One town meeting warrant article discussed at length at Monday’s meeting concerned the disposition of the old Pine Street Fire Station. Town Manager Steve McAllister had proposed that voters be simply asked to give selectmen authorization to sell it to the highest bidder, with a minimum bid of $90,000 – its appraised value.

But Selectmen William Merrill and Nancy Record were uncomfortable with the lack of public discussion about what should become of the old fire station, which was originally built as a garage and once served as headquarters for the Police Department.

A public hearing held on the issue several weeks ago was sparsely attended, and no one from the public has come forward with a specific proposal concerning its continued use by the town.

The town wants to split the lot the station sits on and retain the gully end of the property for use as a snow dump and, eventually, construction of a town parking lot for public use. Lack of adequate parking has long been an issue in the commercial sector of Market Square adjacent to the old station.

Merrill said by splitting the lot, the town would be significantly restricting what use could be made of the old station by a developer. If, say, it was developed as a restaurant, town parking ordinances would require more parking spaces than the split-off property would allow.

“It’s not feasible to sell something if there is not going to be enough parking” to allow a commercial use of the building, Merrill said. “Why are we in such a big hurry to get rid of it all of a sudden?”

Head Selectman Ray Glover said there was no hurry, but that the annual town meeting was the appropriate venue for deciding the issue. If the status of the station remains up in the air, the town would still have to provide for insurance, and basic maintenance, even if the pipes were drained and heat turned off. The station has no sprinkler system.

Selectman Bruce Hanson said it’s possible someone would want to buy the building for use as a garage, or for some other low-impact enterprise, in which case less parking would be required.

But Merrill persisted, asking for two warrant articles on the issue to be presented to voters. The first would ask if the town wants to sell the station, and the second, if the answer to the first question was no, would ask what amount the town should appropriate for maintenance and insurance.


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