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June 25, 2014

Council vote readies Lawrence firehouses as rentals

LAWRENCE — The city is now soliciting rental proposals for two closed firehouses after a majority of city councilors officially declared the buildings surplus property.

Firehouses on Bailey Street and up on Tower Hill were declared surplus property by a 7-0 vote of the Lawrence City Council last week.

Councilors Nilka Alvarez-Rodriguez and Sandy Almonte left the meeting before the votes on the firehouses were taken, according to meeting minutes.

The surplus property declaration of both closed firehouses now paves the way for both brick buildings to be rented.

Lawrence General Hospital has expressed interest in renting the firehouses, located on opposite sides of the city, to use as ambulance bays/substations.

LGH was awarded the city's ambulance contract in March by Mayor Daniel Rivera.

Requests for proposals for both Engine 8 at 298 Ames St. (Tower Hill) and Engine 9 at 161 1/2 Bailey St. were issued on Tuesday, said Abel Vargas, the city's business development director.

Both buildings, which each measure roughly 6,000-square-feet, will likely be rented by August. It's unclear at this point how much the city will be paid in any future rental agreement for the buildings.

Due to budget cuts, Engine 8 was closed in August 2009 while Engine 9 was closed about a year later.

Any rental agreement concerning the firehouses will contain a clause stipulating that if the city wants to use the buildings again to staff firefighters — the tenant would need to vacate the property within 90 days.

Vargas said per the councilors' request any rental agreement issued on the firehouses will be sent to the city council. Rental agreements involving city property are not regularly forwarded to the council, he said.

The proposal to rent the firehouses was reviewed by the city council's housing subcommittee, which gave the matter a favorable recommendation.

Mayor Daniel Rivera said previously renting the firehouses was a good move for the city. The rentals will provide much needed revenue for the city. And currently, Lawrence is an absentee landlord at both firehouses, he said.

Firefighters, however, were less than pleased. Lawrence Fire Capt. Eric Zahn said it's always unfortunate for the department to lose a firehouse. He said the department harbored "whatever hope" there was for staffing the closed stations with firefighters.

Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter @EagleTribJill.

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