2016-01-22 / Front Page

Arundel to give back old station

Substation on Old Post Road hasn’t been used by fire department for several years
By Wm. Duke Harrington Staff Writer


Arundel Selectmen have decided the time has come to get rid of the old fire department substation, located at 550 Old Post Road, but the question is whether a town meeting vote is required to give the building to the family that owns the land on which it sits. (Duke Harrington photo) Arundel Selectmen have decided the time has come to get rid of the old fire department substation, located at 550 Old Post Road, but the question is whether a town meeting vote is required to give the building to the family that owns the land on which it sits. (Duke Harrington photo) ARUNDEL — Selectmen have decided it’s time to officially decommission the town’s old fire department substation, located at 550 Old Post Road.

It’s actually been several years since the building was used by the fire department, town officials say. According to Town Manager Keith Trefethen, the building currently acts as an overflow warehouse, containing a couple of public works vehicles – one of which used to be a fire department water tanker – and some surplus fire equipment, including old turnout gear and hose couplings. What’s more, the building, erected in 1974 – as evidenced by the period authentic faux brickwork on its façade – is in rough shape.

“It would be my recommendation to not put a cent into it,” Trefethen told selectmen at their Jan. 11 meeting.

According to Trefethen, a May 2014 study predicted it would cost $33,000 to rehabilitate the station, while it would take an immediate $7,500 in roof work just to “bring it up to some sort or usable (state).”

The station sits on one acre of land leased from Fernande Gregoire in 1974. According to the wording of the lease, “This conveyance is subject to the conditions that if at any time in the next 100 years the land herein described is used for any other principal purpose than to house a fire station, the title to said land is to revert to the granter herein and his or her heirs.”

Given how long it’s been since the station was used actively by the fire department, selectmen said they almost have to give it back to the Gregoire family, which still lives on property surrounding the building.

“I think we’ve already violated the conditions,” Selectman Thomas Danylik said.

“Clearly, to me, it [the lease] says if we are not going to use it as a fire station, we need to make some decisions,” Trefethen agreed.

“If we’re not going to put any money into it, if it’s just going to fall apart, we might as well get our stuff out of it and let it go back to the family,” Selectman Dan Dubois said.

Selectman Velma Jones Hayes agreed, saying the time for the station had long since passed.

“At one time there was a need for it,” she said. “At one time we had quite a few volunteer firemen in that area and, if an alarm went out, they were there, to get out the equipment and use it at that end of town. That doesn’t apply anymore.”

Trefethen said Fire Chief Bruce Mullen has declared his department has no further use for the building, while Public Works Director Roger Taschereau “has indicated he will find a place to put his stuff.”

The station was built by the private fire association – founded in 1959 to judge by the date on a sign over the station door – which served Arundel at the time. Selectmen asked if there is any condition in the lease that specifies what condition the building must be if given to the Gregoire family, or if the building had to be returned to raw land.

“There’s no wording in the deed that describes that,” Trefethen said. “And I don’t think there were any side-agreements made in the ’70s to indicate that. We couldn’t find anything in the record.”

“I think they’d be happy to take it back,” Selectman Phil Labbe said.

“Well, they may have to put a little bit of money into it,” Trefethen said.

Selectmen voted unanimously to cancel the lease and return the land to the Gregoire family, along with the gift of the building.

However, almost before hands came back down following the vote, Danylik raised an issue.

“Can this board do that?” he asked. “Where we were leasing it, it’s real property.”

That means it could require a town meeting vote to get out of the lease and give away the fire station. Jones Hayes also pointed out that while the fire department is now a municipal service, the original lease was with its predecessor, which was a private organization. It may be assumed the town inherited all of the association’s obligations when it was absorbed as a municipal department, but that might not necessarily be the case.

“So, there’s a couple of legal questions,” she said.

Trefethen said he would check on the legal ownership of the building and responsibility for fulfilling the terms of the lease, as well as whether a town meeting vote will be required to dispose of the building.

Trefethen said he expects to have answers to those questions in time for the board’s Jan. 25 meeting.

Staff Writer Wm. Duke Harrington can be reached at news@kennebunkpost.com.

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