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Monday, February 25, 2013

Cross Mills Fire District saves taxpayers a cool $1.55 million

Financing on new firehouse locked in at an amazing rate
Not only under budget, but bonded at a very low interest rate
By Will Collette

It’s not very often that taxpayers get good news on major public construction projects, but that’s what happened with the controversial Cross Mills Fire District station on Old Post Road.

Readers may recall that this recently opened fire house sparked months of controversy when the Planning Commission attempted to force the fire district to shrink the size of the facility to dimensions smaller than that needed to accommodate modern fire equipment and to substitute some other material, such as wood shingles, instead of brick.

After those problems were worked out, the District could then focus on getting the station built and, of course, paid for.

Voters originally approved paying $2.85 million for the building, although the District had projected the cost to be around $2.4 million. They hoped to get the work done for $2.2 million. When the work was completed and the bills were tallied up, the construction ended up costing only $2.1 million.

Despite Planning Commissar Ruth Platner's
efforts to block this fire house, it was
built at substantial savings to taxpayers
Completing the arrangements for financing took 15 months. According to Charlestown Fire District board chair Kevin Gallup, the District expected the interest rate would be near 4% on the 40-year USDA loan. As time passed, he feared the rate might go up.

However, Gallup reports that the District closed the deal on the loan on February 1st at a remarkable rate of 3.185%.

Over the 40 year life of the loan, Gallup says the savings to taxpayers will be around $800,000, compared to what the District would have paid if the loan had come in at 4%.

Combine that with the construction savings of $300,000 and $450,000 less than the voter approved contingency, plus another $800,000 in reduced financing costs. That’s a nice $1.55 million that could have come out of taxpayers’ pockets.

Gallup says having modern, attractive facilities has helped boost volunteer recruitment not just at Cross Mills with its mint condition station, but also at the relatively new CFD facility on South County Trail.

The way I see it, it’s in Charlestown’s self-interest make sure our public safety facilities are top notch, not just for efficiency’s sake, but to show respect to the people who are ready to put their own lives on the line to save ours.