Possible land deal for station on agenda

MERRIMACK – Community leaders will examine the details of a possible land deal that would make way for a new fire station in south Merrimack.

The proposal – for the School District to convey three acres of its land on Continental Boulevard to the town – tops tonight’s agenda in a joint meeting between the Town Council and School Board.

The School District owns more than 12 acres near Thorntons Ferry School. The town wants to acquire a piece of the northwest corner for a station that may be constructed in the next couple of years.

Late last year, Town Manager Keith Hickey approached Fidelity about land possibilities, but nothing came of it, according to Town Council Chairman Tom Mahon.

In December, town officials met with the School Board in nonpublic session to talk about its Continental Boulevard acreage. The two groups eventually pushed the discussion to this week. School Board Chairwoman Rose Robertson-Smith has said she wanted to vet the project together.

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Even if a majority of the School Board eventually approves some kind of deal, voters would have the ultimate say, board Vice Chairwoman Emily Coburn said. It seems the earliest opportunity for a transfer of any kind would be next spring, during the 2010 election.

The current fire station at 196 Naticook Road is not suited to handle an expected increase of service calls at the future Chelsea Property Group outlet mall to be built off Industrial Drive, Mahon has said.

The town’s capital improvement program documents say the station was originally constructed in 1973 as a two-bay garage for trucks. About 15 years later, living quarters were added so full-time personnel could occupy the station.

The building needs repairs, is too small for emergency training, administrative activities and proper equipment storage, and has no accommodations for female employees, the documents say.

The Fire Department put $125,000 into its budget this year for engineering and design costs. Construction, slated for 2010-11, is estimated at $2 million.

Most of it would be funded through a bond. Chelsea Property Group is also scheduled to pay a portion of the cost.