Lately much has been made about the cost of the proposed land purchase for the new Public Safety Building. Having been on the Firehouse Committee I can state unequivocally the committee exhausted all possible sites available with the criteria of land cost, development cost, and location along with other more specific criteria within those categories. We physically inspected 13 sites and assessed their suitably for construction of the proposed building. After all was said and done the site we chose was the most cost effective when combined land and development costs were considered. Some parcels were less expensive but required extensive site work and mitigation of natural obstacles such as wetlands, ledge, untenable slopes (a 10 degree slope is the maximum allowable). Other sites were too small, too expensive, did not have viable access to traffic on Killington Road or Route 4.
Some critics even say we don’t need the 4 acres. We on the committee went through several iterations of the building to try and fit it, the required travel lanes, and parking onto the various lot sizes and configurations. Some critics say there are better deals out there yet no one could point to one. I would challenge these critics to offer up a better more cost effective plan, on hopefully a more timely basis than on the eve of the vote. The current site search has run for close to three years. I would think that would have been more than enough time for any armchair real estate experts and town planners to come forward with a better proposal.
Then there are people who are legitimately asking if an appraisal of this property was done. It was not. It’s questionable as to how much an appraisal would be worth in this situation. This property was not for sale. It was only through the site assessment of another parcel that the possibility of acquiring this parcel came to the fore. There are no comparable sites or current comparable sales. It is because the site was not for sale that an appraisal would be of limited use as leverage in price negotiations. We have already negotiated the price down from $550,000 to $525,000 to include $20,000 of site work (clearing, grading, and rough access road). For an appraisal to have negotiating value we would need to have an alternative to turn to if the seller decided to spurn the appraisal.
Whether you feel the price is too high or not, no one can dispute the current firehouse needs to be replaced. It is well documented it does not meet fire or building codes and is not ADA compliant. It is only through the grace of State and Federal authorities it has been kept open. I imagine they let us get away with a decrepit structure because of their concern in keeping a functioning firehouse open to serve the public. If the structure was subject to local building ordinances a large part of it would have to be torn down as it is nowhere near setback requirements. Virtually all of the current firehouse’s parking is on a neighbor’s property.
Our community has been desperately fighting for economic development and to increase its full time population. This proposal is in keeping with that goal. A new building would reflect that interest to potential new businesses, investors and residents. It would reflect the economic vitality spurred by the Resort’s (and Town’s) investments in so called 4 season amenities such as mountain biking trails, zip lines, etc. Our off season business has taken off since the Resort made those investments. A new edifice reflecting our community’s commitment to our town’s safe and secure future would go a long way to attracting new businesses and residents.
Additionally, ours is a volunteer fire department. These people respond selflessly to medical emergencies, car accidents, search and rescue missions, as well as fires, not only in our town in surrounding towns as well. Oftentimes they put their lives on the line to keep other’s lives and property intact. Wouldn’t you think that these selfless people deserve a decent facility to work out of? Wouldn’t you think that maybe more volunteers would be attracted if they did not have to work in decrepit squalor? As much as the volunteers have done to keep up the current firehouse you can only do so much to “perfume the pig.” There’s no turning this sow’s ear into a silk purse.
I know this is a difficult decision because it does involve a significant expenditure of taxpayer funds. However, analyses have been done which reflect that the current budget projections can absorb the cost of the project with “no net effect going forward on budget or taxes”. The town has been budgeting for capital improvements. That combined with significant amounts of debt being retired in the near future, golf course, etc., would allow the town to carry the cost without increases in future budgets.
Finally there are no more parcels, at least that we could find, that would support the Public Safety Building project as well as this parcel.
Please support the future of our community with an affirmative vote on the bond initiative.
Vito Rasenas, Killington