By Patrick Ronan
The Patriot Ledger
MARSHFIELD,Mass. Barack Obama was a state senator and Mitt Romney a governor when Marshfield's fire chief first started asking for a new fire station. Oh, how far they've all come.
Marshfield residents at a special town meeting Monday night voted to borrow $3.5 million to replace the fire station in the town's Ocean Bluff-Brant Rock neighborhood. Fire Chief Kevin Robinson has been advocating for the new facility since 2004.
"I think this fire chief has been very patient over the years," resident Stephen Hocking said.
Robinson said the existing station at 21 Massasoit Ave., built in the early 1900s, is too small to house an ambulance and has deteriorated beyond repair. The Ocean Bluff station - one of three fire houses in town - serves southeastern Marshfield, including most of the beach neighborhoods.
"This building is ready to collapse," said Keith Polansky, chairman of Marshfield's advisory board. "Anyone who has been in it or walked around it knows what I'm talking about. The people [firefighters] living there really shouldn't be living there. We are on borrowed time."
The new station will be two floors measuring about 8,000 square feet total, about twice the size of the current building.
Although most of the voters in the Furnace Brook Middle School auditorium supported the chief's proposal, the town's capital budget committee did not. Joseph Centorino, the committee's chairman, said $3.5 million would eat up too much of Marshfield's borrowing budget.
The $3.5 million will be borrowed under the tax-levy limit and won't require a tax override. Capital budgets in most towns are commonly made up of less-expensive proposals such as vehicle and equipment purchases and infrastructure repairs.
"Can the town support $3.5 million? Sure, and I believe our town treasurer can say that," Centorino said. "The problem is, when we come before town meeting next year, the amount that we spend for this now, that's money we're not going to have next year to fund other projects."
Town meeting member Pam Keith agreed with Centorino. She said doubling the existing station's size is excessive, and she predicted that important projects, such as sea-wall repairs, will get shortchanged because of the new fire station.
"I think it's not fair to some people, like the people who live near the sea walls, (to say) that we don't have any money for their projects," Keith said.
Nancy Holt, the town treasurer, said the project will cost the average taxpayer about $30 per year over the length of the 20-year loan.
Robinson, a Marshfield resident, said he empathized with those who were critical of the price tag.
"It's a lot of money. I'm a taxpayer, too," he said. "I understand it's a lot of money, but it meets the needs so we can continue to provide protection down in that district. We designed it to the need, not to a budget."
The project will likely start next spring and be completed by May 2014. Firefighters will work out of a temporary site during construction, an expense that is included in the $3.5 million project, the chief said.
Copyright 2012 The Patriot Ledger