The Recorder – Bernardston committee discusses financial options for Fire Station expansion
Published: 4/28/2022 7:15:31 PM
Modified: 4/28/2022 7:14:04 PM
BERNARDSTON — Selectboard member Stanley Garland is advocating for private fundraising to get the four-bay Fire Station expansion project off the ground, though others are skeptical that will be sufficient to generate the necessary $1.58 million.
The Bernardston Fire Station Committee met Tuesday to discuss financial options for building an addition onto the 18 Church St. station. But firefighters and other committee members expressed doubt there is a way for donations to cover the expenses, even over a 20-year period.
“That’s just a lot,” Assistant Fire Chief Lloyd Grover told Garland in Town Hall during the hybrid meeting.
In April 2020, the town obtained the 12 Church St. lot neighboring the current station to house an addition. In May 2021, town voters approved borrowing up to $3 million for the expansion project. Support for the project was secured in the May 10 election, when a 133 to 68 vote approved a debt exclusion to pay for the bond needed to construct the Fire Station addition.
However, Fire Chief Peter Shedd explained the project is now expected to cost $4.58 million. The price tag has nearly doubled from the $2.4 million initially projected. Shedd credited this hike to the COVID-19 pandemic, supply chain issues, worker shortages and the fact that Bernardston must pay prevailing wage because it is a municipal project.
Garland suggested 50/50 raffles, boot drives, spaghetti suppers and crowdfunding through platforms like GoFundMe. But Grover said he could instead envision using those avenues to “fill in the gaps at the end” of the project to buy furniture and other items. He explained the department stopped holding spaghetti dinner fundraisers due to a lack of interest.
Garland said private fundraising could work if the town put a “concerted, hard effort into it.” He acknowledged fundraising is not ideal but “it’s the only way I can see to get us started,” adding that the town has to at least try, or give up on the project.
Firefighter Scott DiGeorge said he feels private fundraising would be a waste of time. Shedd noted he doesn’t want to hold boot drives that impede on efforts by local sports teams and school bands, saying that won’t generate a warm community feeling.
Finance Chair Jane Dutcher said she has considered collecting donations by making a quilt to raffle or auction off.
“Done right, it can make a lot of money,” Dutcher said. Garland recommended displaying a quilt at the town’s annual Scarecrow in the Park festival in Cushman Park in the fall.
Garland and Town Coordinator Louis Bordeaux then mentioned removing the specific dollar amount from any fundraising platforms so the goal will not appear too lofty.
“I’m not willing to drop the ball,” Garland said. He mentioned the possibility of getting a state grant, noting that Orange has received $1 million as part of a matching grant to construct a water tower for fire suppression services at the Orange Industrial Park. But Grover said there are few, if any, grants available for fire station construction.
The project is essentially being put on hold until October in hopes that inflation is alleviated and costs drop, though Shedd told the Greenfield Recorder he does not think that will happen. The Bernardston Fire Station Committee’s next meeting is slated for June 14.
Reach Domenic Poli at: email@example.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.