Fire district holding series of public meetings throughout process
By Matthew Reitz
The Granby Center Volunteer Fire Department’s First Fire District has hired Heuber-Breuer Construction to conduct a feasibility study on the department’s buildings, vehicles and equipment.
Fire Commissioner Peter Holmes began a public forum last week by introducing Sean Foran, executive project manager for Heuber-Breuer. Foran said the purpose of the meeting was to discuss the process with the community and “make sure everyone understands it’s a process that we believe should be a community effort.”
Foran stressed that the process was just beginning, and, presently, he has little information about what the district needs.
“We don’t have any answers right now, but we have a lot of questions,” Foran said.
He noted that he was beginning the process with a “truly unbiased outlook,” and without any preconceived notions or political connections.
Foran said his goal is to help the fire department meet the needs of the community and find the most cost-effective way to do so.
Some residents questioned why the study was being done now and how it was being paid for. Holmes said the fire commissioners decided to have the feasibility study done now to ensure the district doesn’t reach a point where it has a building and equipment that don’t meet its needs. Holmes said the study will cost $24,000 and will help the district identify needs and plan for the future. He brought “some safety issues” to the attention of his fellow commissioners several years ago, and the board recently voted to move forward with the study.
“Whatever it leads to, the information will be valuable,” Holmes said. He said the money for the study “didn’t come out of this year’s budget,” but from funds that have been saved over time.
Fire Commissioner Tim Carly said he didn’t want people to think the fire commissioners are coming to the public to say they want a new building. Foran said the current building, built in 1962, looked to be in decent shape. Carly said the commissioners want to be as fiscally conservative as possible, but they know they have a problem to address.
“We don’t know what the answer is,” Carly said. “That’s why we’ve hired this company to come help us with the discussion.”
Foran said one of the more serious problems is the size of the engine bays. He said there have been numerous accounts of firefighters being crushed by vehicles in their own stations because the bays are not large enough and visibility is poor. Fire officials said in the past the district has had to spend extra money to get trucks custom built to fit into the existing bays.
A series of three public meetings will be held to gather information and keep residents informed. Meeting minutes and other pertinent information will also be posted on a website that will be updated throughout the process. According to Foran, the final product of the study will be a Facilities Master Plan for the First Fire District that will be available online once it is completed.
The next public outreach meeting is scheduled for September 3, and the study is scheduled to be complete by December 2015.