The East Greenwich Fire Commissioners voted to approve spending up to $20,000 to determine the suitability of the state-owned land at Cedar Avenue and Post Road for a new fire station at their regular meeting on Feb. 23.
The action is the first step toward the much more costly endeavor of possibly buying that parcel of land and then building a new station there to take the place of the Main Street fire station.
Fire Chief Peter Henrikson and Commissioner Doug Alexsen at New England Tech. The is because much of the immediate coverage area for the existing Main Street station is either in Cowesett (which is covered by the Warwick Fire Department) or in Greenwich Cove.
This comes about now, they said, because of the state’s plan to sell the parcel of land on Post Road and Cedar Avenue. The state has put a $360,000 price tag on the property.
Fire District lawyer Scott Spear explained why a pre-bid study of the parcel was important.
“Because the way the bidding process works, if you’re the highest bidder, you take the property as is,” Spear said, explaining that there could be no contingency clause.
“If you put a number on the table and they accept it, you have to buy it,” he said. “So it’s necessary to consider doing all of the due diligence work prior to making an offer on the property.”
The $20,000 would be used to determine the current value of the land; conduct a title search; review the zoning classification; obtain or pay for a survey; conduct an environmental site review; conduct a traffic assessment; and conduct site building assessment.
Commissioner Mark Schwager asked if the Fire Chief had checked with the Police Department to see what information they had on the property, which he said had been considered for a new police station prior to locating the station on First Avenue. Henrikson said he would look into that.
If the survey results are favorable and the Fire District decides to go ahead with bidding on the land, there’s still one more problem: the district has about $300,000 in its impact fee fund, short the $360,000 price set by the state. At the meeting Thursday, commissioners discussed different solutions, including calling a special meeting of the district to get citizens to vote to borrow the extra money.
“We do have impact fee money that will be coming in,” said Commissioner Stephen Bartlett. According to Henrikson, the district can expect as much as $190,000 in coming months from building projects that are taking place now. (Impact fee payments must be paid before the issuance of a certificate of occupancy.) Another $290,000 could come in next year, according to Henrikson.
When Commissioner Mark Gee asked for some sort of ballpark estimate to build a new fire station, Henrikson said he would seek information from fire departments in the state that had recently built new stations.