Franklin Countys First News

Commissioners discuss Salem Fire Department station

[Editor's Note: We've added language clarifying that TIF funds can't be used to improve this fire station, as it doesn't relate directly to protecting the Kibby Wind Power project, rather than a general rule regarding fire station funding.]

FARMINGTON - County commissioners discussed the Salem Fire Department's station at Tuesday's meeting, exploring different options for the county-funded organization's building.

The department is a nonprofit association that is chiefly funded by Franklin County on a quarterly basis out of the Unorganized Territory budget. The station is located inside an old school house built in the 1850s on a 1.5 acres of land on Route 142. The building and land is leased from the Maine Forestry Service at no cost.

According to Salem Fire Chief Steve Viles, the building has issues that go back to its transformation from a school house to a station. The concrete floor was poured after a wooden one was removed, and the building has been through multiple floods that have left the sills soft. The doors in the garage aren't large enough to allow the department's newly-donated truck to fit inside. There's no plumbing or running water and the small size of the lot makes many improvements or an expansion difficult.

"We're between a rock and a hard spot up there," Viles said.

The department has 10 volunteer members, Viles said. They responded to 34 calls in the past year.

Commissioners were unenthusiastic about putting money into repairing a building that the county or department didn't own. Viles said that the state had previously indicated that it wanted to maintain control of the property. Additionally, Franklin County Emergency Management Agency Director Tim Hardy warned, simply jacking up the concrete floor or some other renovation could expose other issues in the old structure.

There is a landowner with acreage on the Pitt Road that Viles said could provide space for a new station. The issue would be funding construction - County Clerk Julie Magoon said she wasn't certain that the state would be open to using U.T. funds for brick-and-mortar projects. The issue is that Salem's department doesn't respond across the entire U.T., Magoon noted, anymore than departments in Rangeley, Kingfield or Eustis do.

Tax Increment Financing funds can't be used for the Salem station, as any such improvements would need to relate in some way back to the Kibby Wind Power project that funds the TIF. The department does have a $20,500 reserve account dedicated for equipment purchases.

One of the primary reasons that the Salem department exists is to respond to a potential fire at Mt. Abram High School. Viles said that there was a garage on MSAD 58-owned land that was currently being used for general storage that could maybe work.

Magoon said that she would check with the state regarding the possibility of U.T. funding for the Salem station, while Viles said he would check with the landowner on Pitt Road regarding a price for the land and with MSAD 58 about some sort of partnership.

In other business, commissioners approved two transfers within the county TIF accounts. A total of $100,000 was moved out of the TIF undesignated funds into Training, mostly to cover scholarship requests from U.T. residents. Another $150,000 was moved into Telecommunications & Infrastructure to cover costs associated with the new emergency communication tower that will be constructed on Kibby Mountain.

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3 Responses »

  1. Pretty sad when TIF funds can be used to build a useless scenic turnout in Madrid but not a much needed fire station in Salem.o

  2. Shut it down.
    Phillips, Kingfield and Strong Fire are close enough.
    None of the other townships have Fire Departments.

  3. As long as the high school is there you can’t shut it down