The Keene Volunteer Fire Department firehouse was heavily damaged during Tropical Storm Irene last August.
The Keene Volunteer Fire Department quest to build a new home has received strong backing from the community.
Voters approved, via permissive referendum, a resolution approving the department’s plans to build a new firehouse at the Mountain Manor site across from Stewart’s by a vote of 116-35 April 24.
“We were thrilled that it passed by a 3-to-1 margin,” said Alan Casey, chair of the Keene Board of Fire Commissioners. “It shows that the community is behind us. This was a very good turnout; we were told that there were about 450 registered for the vote.”
The vote gave the fire department the green light to move forward on a $2.3 million building project which will include both demolition projects on the new building site and the construction of a new fire station. The current station was heavily damaged in August due to flooding caused by Tropical Storm Irene.
“We hope to come in somewhat under that total,” Carey said. “We wanted to give ourselves some room in case the bids came in higher.”
Carey added that the department would not borrow more than $500,000 in long-term debt for the project.
“I have been talking with our bond council, and that is the amount that we can pay without having to increase the tax levy for this specific need,” Carey said. “We may need to get some revenue-anticipation notes, but we will not go higher than $500,000 when it comes to long-term borrowing.”
The vote also allowed the department to transfer $175,000 from equipment funding to a building fund.
Carey said that funding has also come from an insurance settlement of around $650,000 and local fundraising.
“We have high hopes that we will get a decent amount of help from FEMA,” Carey said. “We know that we will get full funding through FEMA because the governor announced the state would be paying for the full 25 percent local share of the funding.”
Carey said that the department has made sure to keep the community informed of the progress they have made toward a new building through a series of public meetings and media outreach efforts.
“We will continue to keep the taxpayers appraised on the project because we want to make sure that we do this right the first time,” he said.
Carey said the department and the owner of the new site had reached an agreement for the purchase that was dependent on the referendum.
“The property was under contract pending the vote,” he said. “Now, we are hopeful that we will be closing probably sometime next week. There is still some work to do, but we hope to be in the ground by July 1.”