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Corinth Votes ‘No’ on Firehouse

Corinth — Corinth’s fire chief says his department is devastated following voters’ decision this week to scrap plans for a new fire station.

“I came home and I was just drained,” Ed Pospisil said Wednesday, after having spent time at the polls during Tuesday’s Australian ballot vote.

The petitioned revote drew more than 400 of the town’s 966 registered voters. The tally was 228-181 against the firehouse plan that could have cost up to $1.16 million.

The initial vote on March 31 gave the go-ahead — temporarily, as it turned out — to the project that would have provided shelter for four fire engines and a rescue vehicle in a new building on Fairground Road.

But the plan passed that day by just two votes, 148-146, and a petition to vote on it again was filed, as expected. There were 170 signers.

Pospisil said things definitely didn’t go the way he and his firefighters had hoped the second time around.

“My guys feel like they’ve had the legs kicked out from under them. I don’t know what attitude to take. I don’t understand the mentality. I guess we’ll just calm down and regroup and see what our next move is.”

Pospisil said he believed he, a project architect, and members of a building committee had explained things sufficiently at three public hearings. Specifically, Pospisil said, he tried to point out that the new fire station didn’t have to cost $1.16 million. With changes, it could have come in at a couple of hundred thousand dollars less.

He has also noted that the current facilities lack running water, a meeting room and places for storage, and that the station in Cookeville has a dirt floor.

But for months a core of residents seemed to be convinced despite the explanations that the project was simply too costly for a town of fewer than 1,000 residents.

Many objected to the projected annual tax impact — for a 20-year bond, it would have been an additional $130 annually in new taxes on homes assessed at $200,000.

“That was just way too much money for the town of Corinth,” Nelson Tillotson said Wednesday. Tillotson said he’d been a firefighter in Corinth for some 40 years until he left the department several years ago.

Selectman Allen Locke said he was sure the problem was based solely over money, and not on any voter animosity toward Pospisil or his department. “Ed did a good job of explaining it. I think it was just sticker shock. Some people heard a million dollars and they didn’t hear anything else after that,” he said Wednesday.

By law, the matter cannot be voted on again this year.

Locke said through all the discussion he didn’t hear a single person say the fire department doesn’t need a new station.

He believes there’s strong respect throughout town for the chief and his firefighters and the job they do, and gratitude toward Pospisil for the engines and other fire equipment he’s gathered at no cost to the town and the firefighter training he’s overseen.

“I’m not sure that everybody thought this through rationally,” before voting, Locke said.

“They do need a new firehouse,” former Fire Chief Neil Young said Wednesday. “I understand a lot of it.”

Young said he realizes the 1964 firehouse in East Corinth Village has run its course and is too small for today’s fire equipment.

But Young said he doesn’t think the cost of a new building needs to be as much as the department was proposing.

“To me, it’s just too elaborate.” Young agreed with Locke that there’s no anger or opposition to the chief or the firefighters.

“They do a good job; everybody is behind that fire department,” he said.

Tillotson, the former firefighter, agreed.

“I’d like to see them come back with another proposal for a lot less money, and I think they’ll get somewhere,” he said.