After some 20 years seeking to replace its cramped, aged, and asbestos-laced fire station, Chilmark appears on the verge of success. Tuesday night, Antonia Kenny of the Falmouth architecture firm Keenan + Kenny walked Chilmark selectmen through drawings of an $11.1 million fire station and ambulance facility project that the town hopes to put on the warrant for the 2021 annual town meeting.
Project details, which have since been tweaked, were unveiled to taxpayers last spring. However, the 2020 opportunity for a town meeting vote was later set aside due to constraints placed on the warrant by the novel coronavirus pandemic. Before last year’s unveiling, $640,000 had been approved at town meetings for architectural work, and to compensate a clerk of the works and an owner’s project manager. Also previously approved by voters was the $900,000 purchase of a parcel of land on Middle Road where the Tri-Town facility will be situated. Referred to several times Tuesday night as a “campus concept,” the project stands to create a four-bay fire station scaled modestly enough so as not to overshadow town hall, and a separate Tri-Town Ambulance building designed to resemble, as Kenny put it, a farmhouse. The building is meant to be the headquarters for the ambulance service. Aquinnah and West Tisbury have agreed to share a portion of the project costs because those towns share Tri-Town Ambulance with Chilmark. Of the $11.1 million total cost for the two buildings, Aquinnah and West Tisbury would be obligated to cover $3 million, Chuck Hodgkinson, administrator for the Chilmark Fire House and Tri-Town EMT Building Committee, told the board.
“I just want to say I’m very pleased we were able to work something out with Aquinnah and West Tisbury,” selectmen chair Bill Rossi said. “That’s a really big deal to me; it’s a big deal to us.”
Rossi credited selectman Skipper Manter of West Tisbury and selectman Jim Newman of Aquinnah, both members of the Fire House and Tri-Town EMT Building Committee.
Using what he termed a conservative model, Hodgkinson showed the board that on a 30-year bond schedule, a Chilmark home assessed at $1 million would see an estimated $150 boost in taxes in the first year. Under a 20-year bond schedule, a house assessed at the same figure would see an estimated $190 increase in the first year. Among other benefits, Kenny told the board, the new station would afford the fire department the space it presently lacked to garage its vehicles safely. To underscore this need, a slide was shown of recent damage done to the station when a fire vehicle struck the edge of one of the narrow bays. Other features of the new fire station would include a decontamination room, shower facilities, and an auxiliary generator. Kenny stressed careful attention was paid to break up the “massing” of the station, to maintain the prominence of town hall, which it will sit next to, and to adhere to the architectural character of the town. Tri-Town’s headquarters, which is set away from town hall and the fire station, will have its own apparatus bays, dormitory rooms for paramedics and EMTs, and office space. The building will feature a training room that will be shared with the fire department, she noted. Kenny also pointed out the overall project will generate additional parking. Weighing in on the fire station, Fire House and Tri-Town EMT Building Committee member Tim Rich, a former town police chief, said after 20 years of trying to figure out where to put a new station, what the town chose was shrewd because it already owned the land. He expressed support for the station’s design: “I think it fits the scope of Beetlebung Corner nicely … once it weathers in, I think it will look like it has been there for a long time.”
“As a taxpayer, I’d be proud to help pay for this project,” longtime Menemsha resident Jane Slater said.
In other business, on the unanimous recommendation of the parks and recreation committee, the board voted 2-0 to accept the sole bid that came in for a Menemsha bulkhead lot previously leased by Red’s Best and operated as the Menemsha Fish House. The bid came from John Keene, president of the Martha’s Vineyard Fishermen’s Preservation Trust.
“The lot will be used by the Fishermen’s Preservation Trust to develop a wholesale food market there, and to serve Menemsha, to keep our commercial fishing port operational as well,” selectman Jim Malkin said. Selectman Warren Doty abstained from the vote on the lot because he is a Fishermen’s Preservation Trust board member.