Rumford voters meet Tuesday to decide whether to fund a new fire station


Port City Architecture in Portland designed a new central fire station for Rumford at Falmouth Street and Essex Avenue. Voters will decide on Tuesday whether the project will be funded. photo submitted

RUMFORD – Voters on Tuesday will decide whether to approve a $5.4 million bond issue and accept $1 million from the federal government to build a new central fire station in the Falmouth Street area.

The special town get-together begins at 6 p.m. at Mountain Valley High School’s Muskie Auditorium.

Built in 1924, the Central Fire Station on Congress Street has cracks everywhere because the floor cannot support the weight of the five fire engines and two trailers. The floor was reinforced in 1991, but the cracks have continued to spread, officials said.

The weight of the engines, trailers and other equipment is 141,805 pounds.

The station has three bays, seven double rooms, a kitchen, bathrooms, utility rooms, a caretaker’s closet and a training room, Fire Chief Chris Reed said.

A single-aisled wooden structure behind the station houses Ladder 3, which weighs 69,500 pounds.

The proposed new station is 13,328 square feet compared to 12,928 square feet in the current station and conductor building.

Lt. Keith Bickford drives Tanker 5 from Central Fire Station on Congress Street in Rumford in November 2019. Photo by Bruce Farrin/Rumford Falls Times

The new station will be equipped with four large bays and one small, 10 single rooms, a kitchen, recreation room, men’s and women’s bathrooms, and a decontamination room for firefighters to remove hazardous materials, Reed said.

“It has 10 rooms because we have 10 firefighters,” City Manager Stacy Carter told nearly two dozen people who attended an informational meeting Thursday night. He provided details on site selection, construction schedule and funding.

The first article asks voters to approve a $5.4 million bond for construction, and the second asks them to accept a $1 million loan that U.S. Senator Susan Collins made on the Appropriations Committee to which she belongs.

Carter said several locations were being considered and officers settled in the Falmouth Street area because that is where there is room for a two-story station and car park and where most calls are made.

“When choosing a location, we looked at the highest call density in the area that would be best served,” he said. “This downtown is the best area for a quick response.”

He said the townland where the Linnell Motel stood on Prospect Avenue was not chosen because it is prime commercial property that could yield property taxes. It’s also in a flood plain, so probably wouldn’t qualify for the federal government’s $1 million. Another piece of city lot behind the city garage at 1022 US Route 2 has lots of wetland and lots of rocky outcrops, making it less desirable for a new station.

“We’re looking for a $5.4 million bond issue,” Carter said. “If the federal budget is approved before the bond issuance or the bond closes and we receive the $1 million federal appropriation, we can reduce it to $4.4 million. We don’t want to borrow more than is absolutely necessary.”

He also pointed out that there is $1.35 million from a tax hike funding agreement for the power plant that’s headed toward the fire station.

“This is money that we will receive over the next six years,” he said. “That initial payment can offset some of the cost of the bond. The remaining payments will be used to pay the bond payments for the first five or six years, depending on what constitutes the bond payment.”

Selectmen voted January 6 to declare that there is a critical circumstance warranting the holding of a special town meeting.

Carter pointed to the possibility of rising interest rates and inflation this year.

“If we do it now, we think we’re going to get the best interest rates,” Carter said. “As a rule, bond bank interest rates are low compared to other bank financing. We know the Federal Reserve is planning three or four rate hikes this year. So if we move it back for the fall bond application deadline, we can expect that we would have higher interest rates.

“We’ve also looked at how the inflation rate has increased over the past year, and if we start doing that as soon as possible, we can save on the inflation rate,” he said.

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