By Jonathan Phelps
---- — ANDOVER — The focus of finding a site to build a new Ballardvale fire substation has turned to South Main Street after the town hired another private firm to determine where it should be located.
The Ballardvale Fire Station Building Committee went back to the drawing board recently after many residents opposed a proposal to build the replacement station on the South Elementary School’s baseball field at the corner of Andover and Woburn streets.
A private lot at 270 Andover St., across the street from the field, was also considered.
The proposed station will replace the current Ballardvale Fire Station built in the late 1800s at the corner of Clark Road and Andover Street. The station doesn’t meet building codes and isn’t large enough for modern-day fire equipment.
Residents spoke out against both proposed sites because of traffic, hazards to children, distractions in school and making the neighborhood less desirable to potential home buyers.
To address the concerns, the committee hired Criterion Associates of Andover to study where the station should be located. A similar study was completed by New York-based Manitou Inc. in 2007, which concluded that anywhere within a quarter mile Andover and Woburn streets would be the ideal spot for the station.
The new study, which uses Fire Department calls data from the past five years recommends the station to be moved within a quarter mile of the intersection of South Main Street and Ballardvale and Wildwood roads, fire Chief Michael Mansfield said.
“We’re putting out a request for proposals this week, and we’re trying to see what land owners or property owners in that vicinity would be interested in making their land available to the town,” according to subcommittee Chairman Dan Casper.
There are no public land options in the target South Main Street area, however.
“That’s the problem. We couldn’t find any,” Casper said. “We’re waiting to see whether there’s any interest in someone selling us property.”
If a land owner offers his or her land to the town, “hopefully we can take [the project] to Town Meeting this spring,” Casper said.
Travis Miller, president of Criterion, specifically mentioned the “park-and-ride” lot next to the Faith Lutheran Church as the ideal location for the station.
“I think right now, the big take away is you need to think about a different location for the station than the one you’ve been talking about,” Miller told selectmen during a presentation.
Like the 2007 Manitou study, this study also took into consideration the replacement of West Fire Station on Greenwood Road. The new study also addresses the development of Lowell Junction if a new interchange off Interstate 93 were to be built.
The recommended location on South Main Street is about 1.2 miles away from the South School location. The final report of the study is still being prepared, Mansfield said.
Reporter Dustin Luca contributed to this report.