Oak Bluffs breaks ground for new $8 million fire station

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From left: Joseph Sullivan, John Keenan, Antonia Kenny, John Scanlan, John Rose, Robert Whritenour, Tim Madden, Gregory Coogan, Walter Vail, Gail Barmakian and Kathy Burton officially broke ground on the new Oak Bluffs Fire Station Monday. — Photo by Michael Cummo

Soaking rains stopped just in time on Monday for the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Oak Bluffs fire/EMS station that town officials said represents a new chapter for the town, one of fiscal responsibility and a “can-do” spirit.

“The last time we did a dedication was the fishing pier, which was also soaking wet,” chairman of the selectmen Greg Coogan joked in his opening remarks. “Apparently that’s what starts off projects on the right foot.”

On a more serious note, Mr. Coogan said the new municipal building embodies a rejuvenated “can-do” spirit in Oak Bluffs. “We’ve seen a renewed sense of teamwork here in town, demonstrated by all of you,” he said. “This has become a town where everyone wants to be involved and we’re proud to be here.”

Mr. Coogan went on to list a number of improvements currently underway on Oak Bluffs infrastructure, “I might add with a declining amount of debt at the same time,” he said.

“This new station is going to allow our firefighters and EMS to move into the 21st century,” Fire/EMS chief John Rose said. He also praised highway department superintendent Richard Combra and his staff for helping the department move to the modified town highway barn that will house the department during construction. “Richie and his crews have been with us every step of the way,” he said. “If they didn’t do this for us, it might not have been able to happen.”
Building committee chairman Walter Vail paid special tribute to town administrator Robert Whritenour. “Bob has been a tremendous addition to everything that’s going on in Oak Bluffs,” he said. “We have done an awful lot of work putting things together, but thanks to Bob we’ve done it all the right way.”
Project manager Joe Sullivan from Daedalus Projects said the station is on budget and still on time, despite a slight delay. “Hopefully with the shovels in the ground today, we’ll have this building up and running within the next 10 months,” he said.
General contractor John Scanlan said he expected a smooth relationship with the town, noting that he and Mr. Whritenour previously collaborated on several projects, including a new fire station in Falmouth. “Bob and I have good lines of communication,” he said. “The left hand will know what the right hand is doing.”
State representative Tim Madden took the opportunity to present Mr. Coogan with a cake for his birthday, jokingly adorned with the number 80.
Construction will begin in earnest on December 15. The 20,250-square-foot structure is slated for completion in the fall of 2015.
In April town elections, town voters approved a $8,288,000, debt exclusion to finance the new building by six votes (421-415).