EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

August 17, 2011

Private land to be looked at for Ballardvale firehouse proposal

By Jonathan Phelps
jphelps@eagletribune.com

ANDOVER — Private land will now be looked at for the proposed plan to build a fire substation in Ballardvale.

The Ballardvale Fire Station Building Committee is putting together a request for proposals (RFP) for the town to purchase land for the station. Fire Chief Michael Mansfield said the RFP is still being "fine tuned" by the town's purchasing office and should be released in the next few weeks.

The proposals should be available for the committee to consider by November, he said.

Dan Casper, chairman of the building committee, said some of the RFP's requirements include lot size and shape, amount of street frontage and topography.

The current recommendation of the building committee is to build the fire substation on the South Elementary School's ball field at the corner of Andover and Woburn streets with the field being relocated behind the school. The plan also includes several improvements to the South School property, including additional parking and several traffic alleviation measures.

The proposed station would replace the Ballardvale Fire Station on the corner of Clark Road and Andover Street, built in the late 1800s to house horse-drawn fire apparatus.

But the plan has been met with opposition from a number of residents concerned about a number of issues, including traffic, hazards to children, changing the feel of the neighborhood and making the school less desirable to potential home buyers.

Casper said the RFP was crafted in response to the concerns raised by the neighbors. But the Ballardvale Fire Station Building Committee continues to present the South School location as its top recommendation.

"We'll throw a net out there and see if there is anything else," Casper said.

The South School site was first presented to the School Committee by the Ballardvale Fire Station Building Committee in January for information only. The building committee would have to seek approval from the School Committee to build at the school site.

Diane Lewis, of Bayberry Lane, said there are other options for the station and the South School site should be avoided. She recommended land near the Spring Grove Cemetery.

"There's only the dead on the other side," she said.

Many residents have recommended building the station in that area on land abutting Recreation Park.

"We looked at it and it doesn't work," Casper said. "We can't look at it more and make it work."

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