By Vicki Greene, Contributing Writer
MARLBOROUGH – Traffic, sirens and property values all came up as points of concern from neighborhood residents during a virtual public input session, April 22, regarding a proposed fire station in Marlborough’s West Side neighborhood.
The session was held by Mayor Arthur Vigeant and Fire Chief Kevin Breen.
Concerns expressed about Elm Street site
Jean Douglas lives on Elm Street, near at least one proposed fire station site
“I’m a potential abutter and I’m concerned about noise, light, pollution and traffic,” she said during the public input session. “This is a residential area and we’re all very concerned about the impact on our whole neighborhood.”
Douglas also questioned whether she would have to disclose plans for a nearby fire station if she sold her house. Judy Foley who also lives on Elm Street, echoed Douglas’ concerns.
“In the past eight years, traffic has really escalated,” she told Vigeant and Breen. “I don’t see how, with the winding streets, the residential neighborhood… how this is going to go…I’m sick of the noise and the traffic now.”
Breen has been through this process before. Prior to coming to Marlborough, he was the Fire Chief in Salem, NH. In that role, he oversaw the construction a new fire station from beginning to end.
“We want to be a good neighbor,” Breen said. “People have the mindset that there are constant airhorns and sirens and that’s just not the case.”
He explained that there is no department or state policy that requires sirens for every call and that it is up to the driver of the emergency vehicle. Breen further emphasized that lights are a design feature and, in any design plan, the city would be very “sensitive to the issue.”
Addressing traffic concerns, Breen said there is technology that can be controlled from inside the fire apparatus or inside the station that, with the touch of a button, can turn signals red or green to control traffic.
City argues need for West Side fire station
City officials say that significant growth on the west side of the city over the past ten years has led to an increase in emergency calls. They say that a new fire station is needed to service residents and businesses west of Route 495.
Acting on those assessments, the city formed a fire station study committee several years ago. It hired an architectural firm and received recommended criteria for selecting and building on a new site for a station. Some potential sites were identified, including the area of Elm Street and Bigelow Street.
Vigeant stresses this is the beginning of a process
The criteria for the site selection included a recommended lot size of five acres. To build the West Side fire station off of Elm Street, as is currently being discussed, the city would have to purchase land adjacent to a three-quarters of an acre plot it already owns behind a historic home at 481 Elm Street.
“This is not a done deal,” Vigeant said during the input session, April 22.
He said he will have to seek approval from the City Council to negotiate with the owners of that adjacent land. He would then seek the funds to make a purchase. Following a purchase, this multi-year process would go to the design phase and then to a construction phase.
With the uncertainty, Breen has told the Community Advocate that he believes a West Side fire station will be built before his current five-year term ends. He said it takes approximately three years to purchase, design and construct a fire station.
Vigeant urged anyone with questions to contact his office or a city councilor. All contact information can be found at marlborough-ma.gov.