City councilors call for public hearing on potential site for West Side fire station

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By Vicki Greene, Contributing Writer

Empty space lays beside a home at 481 Elm Street. Marlborough City Councilors just voted to accept this plot of land for future development as a potential fire station. (Photo by/Vicki Greene)

Marlborough – The construction of a fire station on the west side of Marlborough has been top-of-mind for city officials following construction of the Apex Center and increased residential development in that area.

On March 22, the City Council took a step towards creating such a station.

Officials eye Elm Street for possible fire station

Back in the fall, the City transferred funds to the Marlborough Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) to buy a 1.23 acre property at 481 Elm Street.

The MEDC eventually then sold the house on that plot. Before doing so, however, they divided the land itself into two parcels and kept approximately 35,000 sq. feet running between Bigelow Street and Locke Drive for a possible future fire station.

On March 22, the City Council voted 10 – 1 to accept the title for the land from the MEDC.

Concerns over the location

Councilor Robert Tunnera represents the ward that includes Elm Street. As officials have discussed the need for fire assets in his area, Tunnera said he has heard from many residents concerned and opposed to a fire station. So, he voted against the title transfer.

Councilor Samantha Perlman said she too has heard from residents concerned about the location. She voted in favor of continuing this process, but then added that she wants more public involvement.

“I’m going to advocate we have a public hearing quickly,” Perlman told her colleagues. “It’s long overdue.”

City would need to buy more land to actually build station

Mayor Arthur Vigeant said back in September that this space alone won’t be a large enough lot for a fire station. If the city wants to build such a project, it will need to buy more land.

Still, he has repeatedly stressed that a portion of land at 481 Elm Street could be a “potential” site.

Construction of a fire station a top priority

Cars pass the Apex Center on Boston Post Road in Marlborough. Development in this area has increased demand for fire services where the nearest station is dangerously far away, town officials say. (Photo by/Dakota Antelman)

Fire Chief Kevin Breen has acknowledged serious concerns regarding current response times to calls from the west side of the city given the location of his closest existing station.

Hearing that, the city formed a West Side Fire Station Advisory Committee several years ago and has been looking at properties ever since.

Yet even opportunities to build a station from the ground up are far and few between.

Breen told The Community Advocate, last year, that the Advisory Committee looked at several sites on Route 20 but found they were cost prohibitive.

The Elm Street property was a rare opportunity with the added bonus of being located near two major roadways.

Chief Breen wants station completed during current term

Breen earned a second five-year term at the helm of the Marlborough Fire Department, last year.

That term started July 1, 2020 and will end in 2025.

Expecting station construction to take roughly three years from start-to-finish, Breen is hopeful he’ll see this new station open by the end of this term.

In saying that, he has actually been down this road before. Prior to working in Marlborough, Breen was Chief in Salem, New Hampshire. He oversaw the construction of a new fire station, there, and has said he is sensitive to timelines and neighbor concerns.

If a plan for a west side fire station on the remaining land were to actually move forward, the process would include a community meeting (including abutters), a public hearing and Council discussion.