EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

January 31, 2014

South School site chosen for fire station

Neighbors at odds with final report

ANDOVER — After five years of work, the Ballardvale Fire Station Building Committee is recommending a new station be built on a site adjacent to South Elementary School.

But neighbors remain far from sold on the idea.

In its final report delivered to the Board of Selectmen this week, the building committee pinpointed the site at the corner of Andover and Woburn streets owned by the school district as its top choice to house the new Ballardvale fire station. The location now supports a Little League ball field for South School.

Its recommendation calls for the construction of a 10,000- to 12,000-square-foot fire station to replace the 120-year-old one located less than one mile away at Andover Street and Clark Road.

The project is estimated to cost $6 million. Officials say the price tag would increase by as much as $1.5 million if the town had to purchase private land for the new station. Under the recommendation, the town would swap land with the school district for the site.

The building committee initially targeted the South School site more than three years, but the location immediately drew opposition from the neighborhood, which has attempted to propose alternative locations.

In presenting the building committee’s recommendation, Chairman Dan Casper told selectmen there was “no secret that there was resistance by some people in the immediate vicinity to that site.” But he said after years of work, members arrived at no suitable alternative, leaving them with their lone recommendation.

“Believe me, if we could have found a site that was universally acclaimed, we would have done that,” Casper said. “We would have had the station by now. It would have been built.”

The recommendation followed two studies — one completed by Manitou Inc. in 2007 and a second wrapped up by Criterion Associates in December. The Criterion study was sought amid opposition to the Manitou study, according to Casper.

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