BUCKSPORT, Maine — Town councilors have rejected a proposal to seek grant funding to build a Fire Department substation.
Fire Chief Craig Bowden came to the council last week with a proposal to seek a federal stimulus grant that would have provided funds for the design and construction of the substation.
Bowden explained that the grant would provide $200,000 for the proposed project and would not require a local match. But, he said, because of the competitiveness of the grant, providing local funds would improve the town’s chances of receiving the grant.
Building a substation would benefit a number of homeowners who live more than five miles from the existing fire station, according to Bowden. He said having a substation in the rural area of town would improve the insurance rating for hundreds of homeowners. That new rating, he said, could save the homeowners as much as $150 on average on their homeowners insurance.
Bowden said the department had not determined a location for the substation, but had done some preliminary mapping. The town has about 2,200 residences and about 800 of them are outside the 5-mile range. About half of those are covered by Orland and Dedham fire departments under mutual aid agreements among the towns. That leaves about 400 homes outside the primary coverage area. To benefit most of those homeowners, Bowden said, the most effective location would be in the north and west of the town.
“We’re looking at the four corners around the Millvale and Jacob Buck Pond area,” Bowden said. “Nothing is set in stone at this point.”
In that general area, he said, a substation would provide coverage for about 70 percent of the 400 homes.
The substation would use surplus equipment, so there would be no cost for equipment. Also, it would be an unstaffed station, although Bowden noted that about a dozen of the town’s firefighters live within two miles of the four corners area. Once the station was built, he said, there would be minimal costs for maintenance.
Councilors, however, were hesitant to approve the grant application. Jeff Robinson pointed out that most of the surrounding communities, some of them with much larger areas than Bucksport, did not have more than one fire station.
Mike Ormsby said the Fire Department already has an excellent response time and he questioned the projected savings for homeowners. He said rates vary so much among insurance companies that it would be impossible to know whether anyone would save on their premiums.
Councilors also were concerned about the cost. The town owns no property in that area and would have to purchase a parcel for the substation. They also anticipated ongoing maintenance costs.
Town Manager Roger Raymond recommended conditions if the councilors chose to approve the application. He pointed out that the town had budgeted no funds for the local match and there are no funds in reserve accounts.
He recommended that no local funding be used until a future date and that, if the council authorized submitting the application, the Fire Department should prepare a plan detailing the cost of operating and staffing the substation, before the councilors accepted the grant.
He also suggested getting information from insurance companies to confirm the levels of savings.
Councilors, however, did not need those conditions. The motion to approve the submitting of the grant application died for the lack of a second.