Special to The Ellsworth American
ORLAND — Voters at the annual Town Meeting on June 9 gave the green light to funding for the next phase of preparing to build a new fire station.
The $50,000 unanimously approved by the approximately 30 residents in attendance at the Orland Community Center gym will not go toward any actual construction. It will instead go toward design and engineering costs as the town continues to explore options for replacing its nearly 50-year-old fire station.
Town officials have spent the last couple of years looking closely at what to do with the current fire station on School House Road. Built in 1974 and expanded in 1992, the building leaks, sits in a low spot, lacks adequate insulation and storage space, does not meet Americans with Disabilities Act requirements and cannot easily accommodate modern firefighting vehicles.
A nine-member committee explored various options, including renovating the existing building or eliminating the Orland Fire Department and contracting out fire protection service from neighboring towns. In a report issued May 20 it recommended building a new fire station on town-owned property at a different location.
“The long-term costs and drawbacks of the other four alternatives render them unviable for the sake of the efficiency and effectiveness of the Fire Department and the safety of the town and its residents,” the committee wrote.
The town owns a parcel on Gray Meadow Road, already home to its sand shed and transfer station. The committee worked with Lewis + Malm Architecture of Bucksport, which drafted conceptual floor plans for a new fire station and found the Gray Meadow parcel “to be a viable site for a new fire station.”
Building at a different location, the committee noted, also would allow the department to continue operating out of the current fire station until construction of the new one was complete.
Before proceeding with building a new fire station, additional votes by residents will be necessary. Among the decisions that would need to be made would be how to pay for the new structure.
The municipal budget approved at the June 9 Town Meeting totaled $1.83 million, up approximately $171,000 or 10 percent over the current budget. Increases included the Current & Contingent Account (up $63,600), winter road maintenance (up $30,000) and the line for municipal equipment and vehicles (up $17,000). The increase also includes the $50,000 for fire station planning.
Social service agencies and community organizations, including Community Health and Counseling Services, Families First Community Center and Buck Memorial Library, saw their funding drop to zero after each received funding last June. Selectman Ed Rankin Sr. explained that some groups had not submitted funding requests because they were not providing services during the pandemic and then had money to carry forward. The town’s contribution to Orland River Days was halved from $2,000 to $1,000.
Orland’s county tax assessment for 2021-22 stands at $122,463, up 6.4 percent over the current year. Its contribution to the Regional School Unit 25 (RSU 25) budget totals $2,463,834 for 2021-22, up 2.7 percent.
In municipal elections held June 8, the following incumbents were reelected to three-year terms after running unopposed: Selectman and Overseer of the Poor Ed Rankin Sr., Assessor Amy Dunn and Regional School Unit 25 (RSU 25) School Board member David Burgess.
Incumbents Jay Clement and Peter Robshaw won four-year terms on the town’s Fish Committee after running unopposed. In a 72-17 vote, residents also approved validating the 2021-22 RSU 25 budget.