By Paul Tennant
---- — NORTH ANDOVER — When the annual Town Meeting convenes May 21, voters will be asked to pay for the design of a new central fire station.
Town Manager Andrew Maylor told the Finance Committee last night the station should be located near the downtown. Fire Chief Andrew Melnikas pointed out the last two fires his department battled happened close to that part of the town.
The houses that are near the center of the community tend to be older and more vulnerable to fires than new residences, the chief said.
The current central fire station, adjacent to Town Hall on Main Street, has been there for more than a century. The Facilities Master Plan calls for moving the Community Development Department from 1600 Osgood St. to the Main Street station.
Maylor told the Finance Committee two sites are being considered for a new central fire station. One is at Lawrence Municipal Airport; the other at Prescott Street and Chickering Road. Both locations are close to Route 125.
According to the Capital Improvement Plan proposed by Maylor, this year’s Town Meeting will decide whether to pay for designing the new station, while next year’s Town Meeting will be asked to appropriate the money to construct it.
“It’s possible the town may not go forward with the project,” Finance Committee member Roberto Norbedo pointed out. The cost of a new firehouse has been estimated at $6.6 million.
The town has a second fire station on Johnson Street, in the Old Center. Finance Committee Chairman Alan LeBovidge wondered if the town should eventually consider building a third fire station near Route 114, where there has been substantial population growth in the last few years.
Maylor said the cost of a new fire station would likely be bonded over 20 years. Selectmen Chairman William Gordon said local officials will not ask the voters to approve an override of Proposition 2 1/2, the state law that limits real estate tax increases to 2.5 percent each year.
The Capital Improvement Plan calls for $1,115,000 in road improvements and $75,000 in sidewalk reconstruction. Public Works Director Bruce Thibodeau said High, Water and Elm are among the streets scheduled for upgrading.
The sidewalks slated for rebuilding are in the older parts of the town, he said.