Port City Architecture in Portland designed a new Central Fire Station for Rumford at Falmouth Street and Essex Avenue. Voters will decide Tuesday on whether to fund the project. Submitted photo

RUMFORD — Voters will decide Tuesday whether to approve a $5.4 million bond and accept $1 million from the federal government to build a new Central Fire Station in the Falmouth Street area.

The special town meeting begins at 6 p.m. in Muskie Auditorium at Mountain Valley High School.

The Central Fire Station on Congress Street, which was built in 1924, has cracks throughout because the floor cannot hold the weight of the five fire engines and two trailers. The floor was reinforced in 1991, but the cracks have continued to spread, officials said.

The weight of the engines, trailers and other equipment is 141,805 pounds.

The station has three bays, seven double bedrooms, a kitchen, bathrooms, supply rooms, a janitor’s closet and a training room, Fire Chief Chris Reed said.

A single-bay wood structure behind the station houses Ladder 3, which weighs 69,500 pounds.

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The new station being proposed is 13,328 square feet, compared to 12,928 square feet in the current station and ladder building.

Lt. Keith Bickford drives Tanker 5 from the Central Fire Station on Congress Street in Rumford in November 2019. Bruce Farrin/Rumford Falls Times file photo

The new station is designed with four large bays and one small one, 10 single-bunk rooms, a kitchen, a day room, bathrooms for men and women, and a decontamination room for firefighters to remove hazardous materials, Reed said.

“It has 10 rooms because we have 10 firefighters,” Town Manager Stacy Carter told nearly two dozen people attending an information meeting Thursday night. He gave details on the site selection, construction timeline and funding.

The first article asks voters to approve a $5.4 million bond for construction, and the second asks them to accept $1 million that U.S. Sen. Susan Collins has earmarked through the Appropriations Committee, of which she’s a member.

Carter said several sites were considered and officials settled on the Falmouth Street area because it has enough space for a two-story station and a parking lot, and it’s where the most calls are.

“In selecting a location, we looked at the highest density of calls in what area is best served,” he said. “That downtown area is the best area for a quick response.”

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He said town land where the Linnell Motel stood on Prospect Avenue was not chosen because it’s prime commercial property that could bring in property taxes. It’s also in a flood zone and therefore likely would not qualify for the $1 million from the federal government. Another piece of town land behind the municipal garage at 1022 U.S. Route 2 has a lot of wetland and a lot of ledge, making it less desirable for a new station.

“We’re looking for a $5.4 million bond,” Carter said. “If the federal budget gets approved prior to going out to bond or closing on the bond, and we receive the $1 million federal earmark, we’ll be able to reduce that to $4.4 million. We don’t want to borrow anymore than we absolutely have to.”

He also advised there is $1.35 million from a tax increment financing agreement on the power plant which is going toward the fire station.

“That is money we’re going to receive over the next six years,” he said. “This first payment is able to offset some of the cost toward the bond. The remaining payments will be used to pay the bond payments in the first five or six years, depending on what the bond payment equates to.”

Selectmen voted Jan. 6 to declare that a critical circumstance exists to warrant holding a special town meeting.

Carter cited the possibility of rising interest rates and inflation this year.

“By doing it now, we feel we’re going to get the best interest rates,” Carter said. “Generally, the interest rates from the bond bank are low, compared to other bank financing. We know that the Federal Reserve is looking at three or four interest rate increases this year. So delaying it for the fall bond application period, we can expect we’d have higher interest rates.

“We also looked at how the inflation rate has been rising over the last year, and by starting on this as soon as possible, we’ll be able to save on the inflation rate,” he said.


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