WHITEFIELD — After some disagreement, selectmen agreed the town would help pay for a leaky roof at a Whitefield Fire Department satellite office.

Selectmen voted 3-1 last week — with a dissenting vote from Selectman Lester Sheaffer and an abstention by Selectman Frank Ober — to start the process of putting a $12,600 warrant item on to next March’s Town Meeting warrant to upgrade a leaky roof at the Coopers Mills Volunteer Fire Department.

The Whitefield Fire Department, which is headquartered on Town House Road, has two support stations: Kings Mills Volunteer Fire Department and Coopers Mills Volunteer Fire Department. The satellite stations — at both ends of town — each house some equipment and one engine. Whitefield Fire Chief Scott Higgins said there are about 20 volunteer firefighters in town.

The names of the support departments are allusions to their history rather than their activity as standalone firefighting sources, according to CMVFD volunteer and architect David Landmann. They are referred to as “associations” rather than departments officially.

The building, which CMVFD owns, is leased to the town for $100 a year. This agreement started seven years ago, according to Landmann, and the town has a similar arrangement to use the Kings Mills station.

The lease states the town is liable for all maintenance to the station, while capital improvement projects are the responsibility of Coopers Mills Volunteer Fire Department to fund, if they choose to undertake them.

And that led to some heated discussion last week, with debate about whether replacing the roof was a repair job or a capital improvement.

Earlier this month, mold was found in the station — which was heavily renovated in 2015 — that prompted concerns about plumbing and, more controversially, the leaking roof that was installed around the time the lease started in 2011. Landmann said CMVFD installed a new metal roof in “good faith” to reduce potential repair costs for the town.

David Landmann, a volunteer at the Coopers Mills Fire Department Association, walks through the station which is facing mold problems from a leaky roof. Last week, Whitefield town officials started the process of contributing $12,600 through the town’s budget to upgrade the roof. The town leases the building from the association. Staff photo by Sam Shepherd

“When the lease was signed, there was an asphalt shingle roof that was in crappy condition,” Landmann said. “The Association took it upon themselves to spend $9,000 to put a metal roof on there that we felt would last for 20 or 30 years.”

The total cost of the renovations to the building, Landmann said, was $192,000. At the same time, the department also paid $35,000 for a piece of land behind the station on Main Street in Coopers Mills.

“That was a good faith effort, an investment on our part, that, at that point in time,” he said. “We didn’t have to do because you owned the maintenance on the roof.”

Sheaffer disagreed, saying replacing the roof would be a capital improvement and, according to the contract, it would fall to CMVFD to pay for the work. Further, he said, the roof also benefits the association because it owns the building.

“If a couple of shingles were leaking and we replaced those, that’s maintenance,” Sheaffer said. “You take the shingles off and you put steel on, that’s (a) totally different (thing), which you guys are responsible for.”

Tony Marple, chairman of the Whitefield Board of Selectmen, said he supported sharing the cost because CMVFD shares the space as a help to the town and because Higgins expressed to him that the site was valuable to public safety.

“It’s clear to me that a seamless roof is a capital improvement and a repair would be our responsibility,” Marple said. “I’m all for sharing the cost.”

Marple said the town spends $2,300 a year maintaining the Coopers Mills station and if the town built a station of the same capacity — Landmann estimated it would cost about $191,500 — it would likely have a $9,000 mortgage on top of maintenance cost. He said the numbers alone make the town’s investment into the roof worth the cost.

The leaks in the roof stem from a number of missing screws in the roof and a few screws not fitting flush with support structures, Selectwoman Charlene Donahue said. Landmann, who donated his time to help design the renovations to the station, said there could be 10,000 screws in the roof, so missing one or two is understandable.

He also said a rodent chewed through a pipe, causing one of the three leaks that are now illustrated by cutouts in the station’s ceiling.

David Landmann, a volunteer at the Coopers Mills Fire Department Association, walks through the station which is facing mold problems from a leaky roof. Last week, Whitefield town officials started the process of contributing $12,600 through the town’s budget to upgrade the roof. The town leases the building from the association. Staff photo by Sam Shepherd

The CMVFD does not have the money to pay for a new roof, Landmann said, if funding is denied by voters at next year’s Town Meeting. If that happened, he said the association would likely not pursue the project, even if it had the money, and repairs in the interim period would be the town’s responsibility.

The total cost of the roof project will be about $17,000. With the town agreeing to pay $12,600, the CMVFD — which fills its coffers through donations and community events — would make up the difference of $4,400 and any added costs, to a point.

Requests for proposals were sent to five contractors, Landmann said, with two responding with a total of three options. The winning bidder, recommended by the CMVFD and approved by selectmen, was Mitchell’s Roofing and Sheet Metal of Freedom, with a $17,000 bid to upgrade the roof to a standing seam, which is resistant to leaks. Fowler’s Roofing and Construction of Gardiner offered two options: Repairing the roof for $7,000 or replacing it with the same type of roof it currently has for $12,600.

The proposal will be reviewed the town’s Budget Committee before it is sent back to selectmen for official inclusion on the Town Meeting warrant.

Selectmen considered a special Town Meeting for a faster approval of the funding, but the contractors would not be able to start the work until next summer.

“We’re going to have to live with it,” Selectman Charlene Donahue said. “We plan on doing this, but it’s contingent on getting the money at town meeting … they’re scheduling now for next year.”

Sam Shepherd — 621-5666

[email protected]

Twitter: @SamShepME

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