EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

June 6, 2014

Decision delayed on Lawrence firehouse rentals

LAWRENCE — City councilors this week tabled a measure which would have paved the way for Lawrence General Hospital to rent two closed city firehouses and use them as ambulance bays/substations.

The Bailey Street and Tower Hill firehouses, which have been closed for years, must be declared surplus property by a city council vote before they can be rented.

Tuesday night, councilors voted to table the measure by a 6 to 3 vote.

Councilors Marc Laplante, Roger Twomey and Eileen Bernal voted against tabling — while the remainder of the council, Chairman Modesto Maldonado, Nilka Alvarez-Rodriguez, Sandy Almonte, Estela Reyes, Kendrys Vasquez and Oneida Aquino, voted to table discussion of the matter until a later date, according to city council records.

The majority of councilors had questions about the rental contract that could be issued along with the city’s ambulance contract itself.

The council may revisit the issue at its next council meeting on June 17.

Mayor Daniel Rivera’s administration wants to rent Engine 8 at 298 Ames St. and Engine 9 at 161 ½ Bailey St.

Engine 8 closed in August 2009 and Engine 9 was shuddered in July 2010. Both brick buildings, located on opposite sides of the city, measure roughly 6,000-square-feet.

Lawrence General Hospital is interested in renting and renovating both firehouses to house ambulances. In March, Rivera announced LGH will be providing ambulance service to the city, replacing Patriot Ambulance which held the city ambulance contract for the past 15 years.

It’s unclear how much LGH is willing to pay to lease the firehouses.

The city council’s housing subcommittee has reviewed the firehouse issue and recommended declaring them surplus so they could be rented.

Any rental agreement issued will specify the tenant must vacate the property in 90 days if the city wants to use the firehouses again for firefighting purposes.

City firefighters are not happy with the rental proposal, however. Capt. Eric Zahn, president of the Lawrence Firefighters Union Local 146, said they would rather see firefighters working in the firehouses.

“It’s always unfortunate to lose a firehouse,” he said.

Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter @EagleTribJill.

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