Norway voters put aside money for future fire substation

By Leslie Dixon, Sun Journal, Lewiston, Maine
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

June 17--NORWAY -- Voters at Monday night's annual town meeting approved a $4.4 million budget, money to buy land for a fire substation and an ordinance on delaying demolition of historic buildings.

A narrow majority of voters approved a request by fire Chief Dennis Yates to set aside $20,000 for the future purchase of land in North Norway that could accommodate a fire substation.

The Board of Selectmen and Budget Committee had recommended that no funds be appropriated this year until a study was done to determine the need, costs and other factors in purchasing land and constructing a substation.

Yates told voters that the idea was initiated, in part, when a homeowner came to him to discuss the high cost of home insurance and whether additional fire safety would help reduce those costs.

Yates told voters that a fire station within five miles or less of a home could reduce homeowner's insurance costs.

Yates used as an example a home assessed at $190,000 in the north end of town, which is considered a Zone 10. The homeowner is paying $891 annually for homeowner's insurance because the house is outside of the five mile range of a fire station set by ISO. The organization studies property/casualty insurance risks that insurance companies may use when setting rates.

If a substation was sited in the north end of town, that home could be pushed into Zone 4, which could reduce the homeowner's insurance rates to about $500. Each homeowner's insurance rates are defined by a number of factors, including availability of hydrants, but the proximity of a home to a fire station is a known factor, he said.

Yates said the substation could affect insurance rates of homes from about the Watson Road northwest.

Town Manager David Holt told voters a study of the proposal will probably not cost any money, unless an expert is needed for a particular area and that cost, he expected, would be minimal.

"Even if it doesn't pass, I'll do a study and come back with maps," Yates said.

The study is needed to determine who could benefit from a lower ISO rating for their home insurance and to determine what the costs will be to purchase land and construct a substation.

Yates said existing equipment could initially be placed in the substation.

Despite several comments from voters who felt the study should come before any money is put aside, a slim majority of voters approved the $20,000.

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In other action, voters approved a $4.4 million budget that includes a 2.5 percent negotiated salary increase for police and highway department union members and a 2.5 percent increase for most nonunion employees. The budget includes $115,000 for a new dump truck and $30,000 for a sidewalk plow.

Voters also approved a $1.2 million, five-year bond for road repairs. The money will be received in time for projects to go out to bid early in 2015. Payments will not start until the following year, when the previous bond for roads is paid off, Holt said.

Voters also approved an ordinance to delay demolition of buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The ordinance cannot prevent demolitions indefinitely, but it will afford the town or a group time to find alternative ways to preserve a historic building or simply to document the building in photographs and other means before it is razed.

The town meeting lasted about 90 minutes and was held at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School Forum in Paris.

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