Fire Substation In North Wilmington Still (At Least) Years Away

WILMINGTON, MA — At a recent Facilities Master Plan Committee meeting, town officials discussed the prospects of a fire substation being built in North Wilmington.

“I’m in favor of a fire substation in North Wilmington,” said Selectman Ed Loud, who got the discussion going.  “This is a priority of mine.  It’s been talked about for at least the past 15-20 years.  It will remain a priority of mine until its built.”

Loud noted that the substation, along with senior housing, were two issues he regularly heard from voters when running for election earlier this year.

“We took a look at response time data from the past five years, but couldn’t see a clear pattern to say there’s definitely a problem,” said Steve Cecil, the town’s consultant on the Facility Master Plan.  “There’s land in the northern part of town that could conceivably be significantly developed. That would trigger a rapid need for a substation.”

“Eventually, you’re going to have substation, especially if development continues to occur. We just can’t see in the data that there’s a problem today, but there may be and we need to go to a next level of evaluation and special analysis to confirm it,” continued Cecil.

In response to a question from Finance Committee member Jonathan Eaton, Town Manger Jeff Hull said the town still intends on conducting a study relative to a fire substation in North Wilmington. The study is currently budgeted for Fiscal Year 2020 (July 1, 2019-June 20, 2020).

Hull reminded committee members that the cost of a new substation would be substantial beyond its initial construction.

“It’s one thing to have a facility built, but we’re talking about staffing four shifts of personnel — 7 days a week, 24 hours a day.  We estimate an additional 12 fire/EMT employees will need to be hired,” said Hull.  “Given salaries, with benefits, we’re talking about a moderate increase in taxes.  That’s going to be a tough item to deal with when trying to avoid an impact on taxes.”

Steve Cecil noted that in Westwood, on a recent project he worked on, the town required the developer to fund the construction of a new fire substation and contribute to its operational costs.  If the large amount of developable land in North Wilmington is built on, perhaps a similar strategy could be undertaken.

On a related note, Paul Melaragni, member of the town’s Permanent Building Committee, asked Town Manager Hull to revisit the agreement between the Town and the MBTA as it relates to trains stopping across the train tracks at the North Wilmington station.  Melaragni is concerned that emergency vehicles would experience significant delays.

“Wilmington Fire Chief Rick McClellan just sent a letter to the MBTA, making them aware of the situation,” said Hull, who recently witnessed the problem firsthand.  “We’re looking to make sure the train doesn’t stop along the road.”

The Police Department has begun logging every time it witnesses trains block the roadway.  Recent occurrences were noted in the following police logs: June 21, June 23, June 26, and June 27.

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