Corinth Residents Approve Study for New Fire Station
Craig Sawicky holds the town report at Corinth Town Meeting yesterday. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »
Marian Cawley listens to a discussion about roads at Cornish Town Meeting. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »
From left, voter Bill Farr, Ken Demars and his wife Sarah Demars say the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of the Corinth Town Meeting. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »
Corinth — During one of the longest Town Meetings here in recent memory, voters yesterday approved a feasibility study regarding the building of a new fire station. They also approved a grant-matching expenditure to install an emergency shelter power generator at the Waits River Valley School.
Roughly 120 voters turned out for what stretched into a four hour and 10 minute meeting, plus an hour lunch. Despite a steadily rising temperature in the municipal building’s meeting area, most stayed to the end, spurred on by discussion and decisions on the $15,000 fire station study and $16,000 in generator contributions. They also took considerable time to discuss eventually approved appropriations to the Topsham-Corinth Little League, the Highway Fund and whether or not the East Corinth Mason Hall should have its five-year property tax exemption renewed.
“What’s all this yapping about? It’s almost cocktail hour,” joked Brenda Carter, the assistant town treasurer.
“We’re in danger of breaking our 43-year record for longest Town Meeting,’’ announced Moderator Burton Cooper, tongue firmly in cheek. But the wait was worth it for fire Chief Ed Pospisil. He and his volunteer crew took the first step toward what they hope will one day be the construction of a new, five-bay station adjacent to the East Corinth Fairgrounds.
Corinth currently has two undersized fire stations that date to the World War II-era, one with a dirt floor and neither with running water. Pospisil estimates that the boxy structures, one in East Corinth and the other in Cookeville, are more than 60 years old.
When fire engines drive in and out of the former building, their side mirrors must be folded back so they don’t catch on the door frame. The latter building, although its doors have been widened, features a dirt floor. Neither structure has running water and moisture from the stone walls in the East Corinth building sometimes rusts out wiring on the trucks.
“The people need a new facility because it will benefit them in the future,” said Pospisil, a town resident for 12 years who said his department recently absorbed a $5,000 budget reduction but who has nonetheless drummed up numerous donations of second-hand emergency vehicles and gear.
The feasibility study will allow the fire department to eventually return before town officials and citizens with blueprints, artist’s renderings and a suitability assessment regarding the proposed parcel of land, which would be donated by its current owner.
There was discussion about the possibility of alternate station sites, how one on the proposed site would affect traffic and whether approving the study was the first step in a series of financial commitments the town may not be prepared to handle. After hearing this debate, Pospisil stood to speak. “Down the line, you’re going to have to pay for this whether you like it or not,’’ he said. “Let’s have a study and see where we take it from here. The only thing this will do is help you.”
After the motion passed without a dissenting vote, Pospisil said he didn’t begrudge the queries and skepticism. “They’re residents and they should voice their opinions,” he said. “The way the economy is, I understand it.”
Another topic that spurred debate was the school power generator. Joe Truss, the town’s emergency management coordinator, said if voters in Corinth and neighboring Topsham, which share the Waits River School, each approved $16,000 yesterday, a matching grant would pay the rest of the $64,000 total cost. Doing so would give Corinth another emergency shelter site in addition to the aging municipal building and allow classes to continue if regular power fails. When asked why the generator funds weren’t included in the school budget, which will be voted on later this spring, Truss said doing so would raise the town’s cost-per-pupil expenditures and therefore reduce the money sent its way by the state and federal governments.
Corinth’s general fund budget for the coming year is $2,000 more than last year, at $344,000. Total expenses are roughly $1.1 million, $23,000 higher than last year. Property taxes on a home valued at $250,000 would increase by $105.50, or 7.5 percent, but this does not include the school portion of the tax bill, which will be set in July.
There were no contested races this year, with Selectboard member Susanne Smith’s 3-year term expiring and Ryan Dodge the only citizen on the ballot to replace her.