SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

September 9, 2013

Chiefs vow to continue fight for new station

Nikas, Smith see public safety center as pressing need

(Continued)

The proposed facility is expected to cost $17.4 million.

On the other hand, Nikas pointed out, it has cost the town approximately $190,000 in the past several years just to keep to the two buildings operational.

The Public Safety Facility Task Force was hoping to ask voters at a Special Town Meeting next month for $100,000 to study the proposed new building. But selectmen rejected the request by a 2-2 vote Tuesday night. They questioned the location, cost and neighborhood concerns.

“I’m coming back,” Nikas said, noting that the group likely will ask for the study to placed on the annual Town Meeting warrant this spring.

Several residents brought up issues with congestion on South Main Street, the fact that the proposed site is in the middle of a residential neighborhood and a possible loss of public parking.

“I understand the neighborhood concerns,” Nikas said. “That is what the design process is about — to answer those concerns.”

The conceptual plan for a new building calls for fire engines to pull out onto South Main Street, away from homes on Elm Street, Nikas said.

Nikas said the issue of replacing the town’s public safety buildings has been studied for the past 60 years. Around 15 different sites were reviewed and deemed inadequate, including the Hammett Street parking lot, the Rite Aid and Bialek Park, he said.

Plans to expand at each station’s current locations have also been looked at over the years. But the task force came to the conclusion that renovations or expansion of the current facilities is not a viable solution.

Nikas said the proposed site would be the best location to reach the majority of the town’s population within an eight-minute response time. He said the idea for a combined facility has been floated before, and no other viable sites have been identified.

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