School Property Excluded From Fire Station Study

By: Ryan Bray

Topics: Town Meeting , Police, Fire And Harbormaster News , Orleans news , Nauset Regional School District , Nauset Regional Middle School

Kyle Wibby makes an amendment to an article seeking $100,000 for an expanded fire station feasibility study during special town meeting Monday at Nauset Regional Middle School. RYAN BRAY PHOTO

ORLEANS – Voters at Monday's special town meeting approved $100,000 for an expanded fire station feasibility study, but the funding will not be used to explore property owned by the Nauset Regional School District.

Article 10 on the warrant for the special session sought authorization to use free cash to finance the expanded study to explore possible options for siting a new fire station. That was to include land currently used for the Nauset Middle School athletic fields, but a motion passed to exclude school property from the study. 

Funding was originally approved at last year’s special town meeting for a feasibility study looking into a renovation of the existing station on Eldredge Park Way. But the project consultant, Galante Architecture Studio, said a renovation would not help the 34-year-old building meet its future needs, and instead recommended that a new station be built.

Last year’s article specifically called for funds to be used to look at a renovation of the current station, and therefore another article needed to be approved Monday to fund a study for a new station.

The renovation scope is a non-starter right now,” Fire Chief Geof Deering said. “We need a new building to ensure that we deliver proper services to the community.”

Deering said siting and constructing a new station is a matter not only of public safety, but the safety of those in the fire department. The current station is not up to code, he said, and fire officials run the risk of exposure to harmful contaminants and carcinogens. 

What we need right now are facts,” he said. “That’s what this new feasibility study does. It gives us more information.”

In September, the select board was presented with a concept to site a new fire station on middle school property. The plan would require that the Finch Skate Park be relocated 150 feet feet on the property and that an existing baseball diamond be rotated 90 degrees to accommodate a two-story station.

Resident Kyle Wibby made a motion to amend the article by narrowing the scope of the study to exclude property owned by the school district. He said the $100,000 would be better used to look at other property around town, noting that the plan presented for the middle school property already appeared feasible.

I don’t think anyone is trying to shut down any possibility of trying to use school district land, but I think we should be spending money to look at all of our options. We already know what the number one choice is, and that is feasible.” 

Wibby’s motion passed by a vote of 191-121, but others in attendance spoke to reconsider the motion to again make school property part of the study.

One woman, a resident of Nickerson Road, challenged Wibby’s claim that the middle school site was a feasible location for a station. 

Let’s collect all the data and then make a decision,” she said. 

Mark Mathison of the select board said that the town has only just begun talks with Nauset school officials about possibly using the land, and said that the site could be explored with others in town.

Martin Culik said “it’s imperative” that the town work with all the information that it has. He favored including school property, and said studying it later would only cost the town more money.

Moderator David Lyttle asked for a motion to reconsider the one made and passed to exclude school property. That motion was made by Dan Pfieffer.

Orleans resident Robert Wilkinson spoke against the motion to reconsider, citing the opinion of a member of the Nauset Regional School Committee that there’s “no way” the committee would consider a proposal to use school land to site a new fire station.

I think we need to leave well enough alone,” he said.

The motion to reconsider failed, and voters ultimately passed the amended article excluding school property 256-51.

Ron Collins, the town’s facilities manager who presented the middle school site as an option to the select board, said Monday that it remains to be seen if school property will stay in play in the search for a new station location.

It’s too early to say,” he said. “We have to see what happens when staff get together with the school committee.”

In other special town meeting action, voters approved $3.3 million for the second phase of work for the Nauset Beach retreat project, which includes creating parking for 218 cars on the site of the Hubler property above the current beach parking lot. Work also calls for the construction of an access road to the beach and the installation of a new septic system leach field. The funding also needs approval at the special town election on Nov. 2. 

Voters also approved $580,000 for emergency dredging of Rock Harbor to allow boats to safely navigate in and out of the harbor. Work is expected to begin this winter, and a full dredging of the harbor is scheduled for 2023. Voters must approve funding the dredge through Proposition 2½ at the special election. 

An article seeking $495,000 for a universal pre-kindergarten program in Orleans also passed with voters 221-86. The program, which is expected to serve up to 66 3- and 4-year olds in town, will be funded through a Proposition 2½ override if it is approved at next week’s special town election. 

Voters also approved spending $365,000 to replace a methane gas flare at the town landfill. Town Administrator John Kelly said the replacement is required as part of the town’s permit with the state Department of Environmental Protection. An article seeking $75,000 for consultant services related to plans for the Governor Prence Inn passed, as did a request for $135,880 to replace emergency radio equipment in the fire department.

Polls are open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Orleans Senior Center for the Nov. 2 special town election.

Email Ryan Bray at ryan@capecodchronicle.com