FARMINGDALE — Residents approved spending up to $1 million to build a fire station, despite some residents’ concern that they don’t know where the station will be built and that space in it may go unused, especially since the neighboring city of Hallowell also is planning to build its own fire station.

Farmingdale officials initially had planned to offset some of the new station’s yearly operating costs by leasing space there for the Hallowell Fire Department, which also would use the station. However, Hallowell officials now plan to build a fire station in Hallowell, after an anonymous donor offered $1 million to help fund the project.

Farmingdale officials said, at Town Meeting on Saturday, the town’s fire station on Maine Avenue has bays that are so small the department has to have new trucks custom-made, at additional cost, because standard modern firetrucks don’t fit into it.. The building is so close to the road that firefighters have to step out into the street to stop traffic so other firefighters can back trucks into the station, and it is in the floodplain and thus potentially couldn’t be used during a flood.

“If you stop by our station, you can see how bad, bad, bad it is,” Fire Chief Dana Mealy told the approximately 50 people at Saturday’s meeting. “I think we can get it done, certainly, for less than $1 million. I’ve been in town 40 years, and believe me, I want to do it as cheaply as we can do it.”

Selectmen, too, said they think the town can get the station built for less than $1 million, but they sought up to $1 million to make sure they have enough to do the job. Selectman James Grant Jr. said he doesn’t expect the new station to cost more than $650,000.

“We pay taxes too. We feel your pain,” Grant said. “We’re going to work to get the best value for the dollar for the residents of Farmingdale.”

Several residents said they didn’t know enough details about the proposal to vote for it, including, particularly, where it will be located.

“I’ve got nothing but high regard for the Fire Department here, and the leadership, in town,” resident Nelson Durand said. “That said, you’re asking for $1 million without providing any detail of what you’re looking at. We should be looking at some detail of what you’re going to do with that money.”

Mike LaPlante, deputy fire chief, said studies have indicated the best place to build a new station in town is north of Park Street, which is where they are looking to find a spot for the new station. He said it can be hard to put information out about where the station would be because, he said, once people find out their land is wanted, their prices for it go up.

Other residents asked why the town needs a larger, four-bay station if Hallowell won’t be leasing or using any of it.

“Why can’t it be smaller if we don’t need space for trucks from Hallowell?” resident Michelle Mason Webber said. “I’m going to vote against this today because I have too many questions.”

Selectman Wayne Kilgore said the town should build a station that will have enough space for future growth of the town, and that also will be able to accommodate unforeseen needs such as space for a spare truck or space for equipment from another town, which may be needed in the future.

LaPlante said because the current main station is in the flood plain, during the flood of 1987 firetrucks were moved from the station and parked at people’s houses. He said they’re looking for a new location out of the flood plain.

Voters, after extensive debate, approved the construction of the new station, and borrowing up to $1 million to do so. Interest, if the whole $1 million is used, would add roughly $606,000 to the total cost.

Residents also approved $6,000 to reimburse, or pre-pay for, Farmingdale residents to get memberships at out-of-town libraries.

However, unlike the current year, and in many years past, that won’t include Gardiner Public Library, a library offering regional services in which Farmingdale has been a partner.

Anne Davis, director of Gardiner Public Library, said if Farmingdale didn’t remain a partner in the library, as it has been for many years, the library no longer would be able to serve Farmingdale residents. She said she will miss the library’s Farmingdale patrons.

She said if the library allowed Farmingdale residents to use the library without the town financially committing to be a partner, other towns that pay to allow their residents to use the library would be unfairly subsidizing Farmingdale residents.

She said this year 178 adults, 16 students, and 13 children from Farmingdale got library cards at the Gardiner library. That compares to, according to town officials, 25 Farmingdale residents joining Hubbard Free Library in Hallowell, and seven joining Lithgow Public Library in Augusta.

Residents also approved numerous articles that, together, make up the proposed town budget.

The town budget of $1.61 million is down from the current year’s budget of $1.67 million.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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