Updated Sept. 24
Chilmark selectmen made a bid to purchase Beetlebung Farm Friday, according to Chilmark town administrator Tim Carroll. The move was the fruit of an executive session held Thursday. The amount of the offer is confidential, Carroll said, until it’s either accepted or rejected. The selectmen have waxed optimistic about the purchase. The most recent assessment of the farm is $948,200, according to assistant town assessor Pam Bunker.
“The selectmen look forward to the acceptance of their offer,” Carroll read from a statement.
At their Tuesday meeting, the selectmen were informed that the farm was going on the market. The board saw merit in acquiring the farm. Possibilities for the farm include affordable housing lots, especially because the town’s affordable housing committee recommended the selectmen explore purchasing the farm. Chilmark could also use the farm to situate its fire station or resituate the town hall parking spaces that would be displaced if a new station is erected in the town hall parking lot.
For months the selectmen have advanced a plan to site a new station on the town hall parking. They haven’t indicated they would use the 5.7-acre Beetlebung Farm for a fire station location, if they acquired it. However, the current site has been criticized by some town officials as being too small. Fire Chief David Norton said at a past board meeting the selectmen were “basically trying to put 10 pounds of manure in a five-pound bag.” Building inspector Lenny Jason told the selectmen he thought they were trying to squeeze too much into a tight area. Hedged by wetlands, the current site plan for the fire station must pass muster at the next conservation commission in order to move forward. At least one member of the commission has reservations about the plan, especially because it will create a building that unifies Tri-Town Ambulance headquarters with the Chilmark Fire Department.
“What seems to be driving the plan for a bigger fire station is the need to house the paramedics and EMTs,” commission member Chris Murphy said. “They should be housed in the hospital.They could be easily be responding from the hospital. The fire station needs to be much smaller and devoted entirely to fireman.”
Murphy commended Tri-Town’s EMTs and paramedics, and said they do an excellent job for Chilmark.
Tri-Town Ambulance Chief Ben Retmier disagreed with the notion of positioning his department’s medical personnel at the hospital. He maintained support for a Chilmark headquarters. “It would be more beneficial for Chilmark and all the residents of up-Island,” he said.
Murphy also said the current fire station plan may threaten wetlands. “I have a big concern about the wetlands,” he said. “We just keep filing them in whenever it’s convenient.” He said the town hall parking lot and the rear of the fire station are filled-in wetlands.
“The old bank would have been a better choice, it seems better to me,” he said.
Murphy said Beetlebung Farm would be an improvement over the town hall site. “It’s higher and drier,” he said. “It’s not in the wetlands.”
The scale of the current plan he described as “not a good, sensible solution with a town with less than 1,000 people in it. This is something we’re building for 12 months of the year, not just six weeks in the summertime.”
Whatever transpired, Murphy emphasized he hopes it is in the best interests of the Fischer family, whom, he said, “we all love.”
He pointed to Albert O. Fischer in particular: “He’s just an all-around great guy,” he said.
Updated to clarify selectmen’s position on possible use of the land and to offer more details. -Ed.