Site plan ok’d for new Sebago Fire & Rescue Station

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

SEBAGO — The Sebago Planning Board unanimously approved a site plan Tuesday for a new fire and rescue station to replace two aging fire stations in East and North Sebago, both built in the early 1950s.

The next step is to seek bids for the proposed four-bay, 10,000-square-foot station, to be located on two acres on Route 114 just north of Fitch Mill Pond. Voters will then be asked to approve funding for construction in a referendum in June, to be held on the same day as local elections. If voters approve funding, work would begin as soon as possible, and the new station would be ready for occupancy by next spring.

“It will be the biggest single expenditure the town of Sebago’s ever made,” and the result of nearly 20 years of debate and planning, Selectman Allen Crabtree said Tuesday. Ward Hill Architects of West Baldwin, which selectmen hired in January at a cost of $35,120 to draw up plans, has estimated construction costs for the four-bay station at $878,039. But Crabtree said selectmen are hopeful that bids will come in lower than estimated, because the economy is still hurting and contractors are eager for work.

“We were pleasantly surprised when the high school bids were opened” last year and found to be less than anticipated, he noted. Regardless of the bid amount, selectmen plan to finance the construction over 15 years, to minimize the effect on taxpayers. If the architect’s estimate holds true, the annual net cost would be around $51,000 a year, or around a $30 increase in taxes per year for a $200,000 home.

The town’s website chronicles the journey toward the new station that began in 1996, when the Sebago Fire Department recommended a committee be formed to locate a suitable site. The report said the 50-year-old East Sebago Station on Route 114 has inadequate bathroom facilities, no room for office space and an overhead door that restricts larger fire vehicles from entering. Parking is inadequate, and the station is inefficient to heat. The North Sebago Station has no running water, poor visibility for oncoming traffic, and even more access restrictions for larger fire vehicles. Station 1 in Center Sebago was never properly insulated and was built without running water or bathrooms.

It wasn’t until the 2003 Town Meeting, however, that voters agreed to study the need and location for a new fire station. A number of different recommendations have been presented over the years at town meeting, including a proposal to renovate and expand the existing Fire Station 1 in Center Sebago.

“The problem of the inadequate town fire stations has not been resolved, and the problem only grows more urgent with time, as all three stations are not in compliance with health and safety codes, and as the physical condition of the Stations 2 and 3 continue to deteriorate,” according to the 2003 public hearing presentation.

“We’ve been awfully careful in trying to listen to everybody’s concerns,” Crabtree said. Ultimately, the Sebago Fire and Rescue Building Task Force recommended a brand new building that will consolidate all fire and rescue operations under one roof and meet the town’s public safety needs for the next half-century. They chose land at the Shaw Brothers sand pit because it was midway between North and East Sebago, and voters agreed to buy the land for $30,000 at last year’s town meeting. Voters also agreed last year to use $268,000 in capital improvement program funds to pay for site development and architectural design costs.

Crabtree said if voters approve the new station, the East Sebago Station will be closed and the property will be returned to the Fitch estate as required under a deed restriction put in place when the land was donated to the town. Station 3, in North Sebago, sits on town-owned land, and that station would be used for storage of town public works equipment.

In previous public hearings held on the proposal, some residents were concerned about deed restrictions placed on the land by the Shaw Brothers. The Shaw Brothers will ask for the first right of refusal if the town ever decides to sell the property, and has also asked the town to agree not to object to gravel operations by their company at the adjacent gravel pit.

The new station will have two bunk rooms and a lounge, along with office space of 3,072 square feet.

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