Former Fire Station Property Could Be Sold By End Of June

By: William F. Galvin

Topics: Conservation , Municipal Finance

A schematic rendering of a renovated Bank Street fire station by the Harwich Fire Association and the Harwich Conservation Trust last October when the two organizations were discussing joint interest in the former fire station property.

HARWICH – An advertisement for the sale of the former fire station at 203 Bank St. and the accompanying four lots totaling 2.06 acres will be ready to publish later this week, and the property could be sold as soon as the end of June.

The property contains the town’s first fire station, built in 1929, and there has been early interest expressed by the Harwich Fire Association and the Harwich Conservation Trust in acquiring the building and property for a shared use. The association has said it wants to restore the 6,700-square-foot structure for a possible museum. HCT has expressed interest in using a portion of the building for office and educational purposes and to retain access to exterior parking in conjunction with the trust’s abutting 66-acre Robert F. Smith Cold Brook Preserve.

According to the document, the town wants to sell the property “to a buyer who will commit to a public/private partnership to allow for community access to abutting conservation lands. It is also a desire of the town, however not a requirement, to sell the property to a buyer who intends to preserve the local history and culture of the existing building.”

“My concern is I do not want it to appear like it’s a stacked deck,” Selectman Larry Ballantine said of putting out a request for proposals (RFP) that could be construed as benefiting the two interested parties.

Selectman Mary Anderson questioned whether the language expressing the town's desire, though not a requirement, still might discourage some people from responding.

“It was put up front to catch the eye of people, but it is not meant to discourage anybody,” Town Administrator Joseph Powers said. “It’s a dialogue we need to capture from all potential respondents. It’s not a requirement.”

Powers said the language is governed by the state Procurement Law and the Inspector General’s Office for when a municipality is looking to dispose of a piece of property.

“You have the right to put in scenarios for greater public purpose above and beyond just price, and so this language is here to accomplish just that,” he said. “In fact, if we were audited by the Inspector General’s Office they wouldn’t see a stacked deck, they would see us going according to their manual on 30B on how to dispose of this property. If we don’t put it in the RFP then it’s a stacked deck.”

The purpose of the RFP, Powers said, is to give as much information and notice to as many people as possible. 

Selectman Julie Kavanagh wanted to know if a minimum price bid would be set in the RFP; no such language was in the draft presented to the board last week. The town has received an appraisal of the property performed from Clancy Appraisal, Co, Inc. of Falmouth, which set a market value at $467,000. In the appraisal the highest and best use of the property was said to be a two-lot subdivision. The appraisal is available in the list of attachments accompanying the RFP.

Under the evaluation criteria for proposed use of the property, community access to the building and property is deemed “highly advantageous.” A commitment to preserve the building and incorporate the recognition of local history and culture is also deemed “highly advantageous,” as is a sale price that exceeds the fair market value of the property as determined by the Clancy appraisal.

Powers told selectmen he expected the RFP to be ready for advertising by May 6 with a 30-day response time. A date will be set for a site visit for interested parties. The whole process could be wrapped up by June 30, he said.