I am one of the citizens who initially turned down the first attempts to place the station at the church location. There were too many unanswered questions, and logistically and financially, it didn’t make sense to me. I felt the town was rushing to buy an overpriced, under-sized piece of land with a large encumbrance on it, that being a church that needed to be moved or demolished.
Over the last many months, I have silently observed the process of picking and communicating the decisions on the new location and I am proud to say that the selection committee and our town government have worked really well to prevent the missteps of the first 3 attempts. This time, we, the citizens, have all the information and ample time to understand why the Farmers Row site is the best location for a much needed fire station. I believe this time no one should object to the process or have the feeling of a fast one being pulled over us, like we did for the church site.
I have read about the concerned citizens’ objections to the site and the two key objections that I see are cost (land and construction) and the preservation of a most definitely beautiful, open field, reminiscent of old days gone by. I believe these two objections are very valid and the selection committee must make an emphasis during its town meeting presentation to alleviate any concerns.
To me, the fact that is private land, with a very high value due to its location, should make it obvious that it will eventually be sold for a handsome sum for residential properties. Given what I know about the cost of land in Groton and its surrounding towns, the acquisition of $350K appears to be at par with what a normal buyer would pay for such a premium lot. And yes, we will pay a $75K premium over appraised value but we must understand that the alternatives will cost us a lot more. It is a flat lot with little or no ground work necessary to make it a buildable lot. It does not have all the costly wetland problems of the other sites considered thus, we will be saving money by paying a small premium over the appraised value. Personally, I would certainly jump at the chance to get that lot for $350K as a good investment due its “location, location, location” and low groundwork costs characteristics.
The cost of construction does not seem to be out of whack with what I would expect a building of that size and utility to cost but I certainly expect the committee to present construction costs of equivalent facilities and current preliminary bids for the proposed station. $8M is a lot of money to spend without having that type of data but I am confident, given the missteps of the past, that the committee will be able to explain it with relevant data.
The one thing I would ask is that architecturally, the building’s facade must look very beautiful to fit in with the character of Farmers Row. I do not want a rectangular box like we all have seen in other fire stations. The fire chief has done an excellent job in talking to citizens and showing proposed drawings of the building and from what I have seen so far, it does look very pleasing to the eye.
In closing, I want to give a big thanks to all the people involved in the selection process and tell them that I’m looking forward to a very informative presentation at next Monday’s town meeting.