In 2007 the Town learned that the National Guard would be vacating the armory on Elm Street and returning it to town ownership. This property (known as Evans Flats), which includes the Highway Garage, the National Guard Armory (now the Town’s Community Center), and additional land off Elm Street and Evans Road, has been studied extensively ever since, particularly as the site of a relocated Fire Station.
To take advantage of the site for a Fire Station, it may be necessary to first relocate the Highway Garage. In 2012 the construction of the Wastewater Treatment Facility was completed, and shortly after the town’s 1.1-megawatt solar array began generating more than enough electricity to power its daytime operation. Building a new Public Works (Highway, Fleet Maintenance, Buildings and Grounds) facility on the same campus would not only make coordination easier for the Public Works divisions but would also allow those operations to take full advantage of the lower-cost power generated by the solar array.
Since 1971 the Fire Department has grown to include the Ambulance Service, and staffing has gone from all-volunteer to 24/7 scheduled shifts. As the service has grown, so have the demands on the building. Several upgrades and improvements have been made to the building, however it continues to be severely limited. After several studies, it was concluded that the best and most cost-effective location for a new Fire Department is on the town-owned Evans Flats property with its easy access to Routes 101 and 202, and close proximity to the downtown, a high priority in previous studies.
The work necessary to move the projects forward was also delayed in response to the Recession. They were taken up again in the fall of 2017, and were brought forward to the CIP Committee, and with their support were presented to the Budget Committee and Select Board. Ultimately in 2018 voters at Town Meeting were asked to support the design, cost estimate and construction drawings of a public works facility adjacent to the wastewater treatment facility and free up the site. That work has gone forward, and a proposal is expected to be presented to Town Meeting in May 2019.
There is no question that these projects require a significant investment on the part of the residents and property owners of Peterborough, and because of that they should all be considered carefully. These projects have been scrutinized at one time or another by the Master Plan Steering Committee, CIP Committee, Budget Committee, Select Board, various special task forces and subcommittees, consultants and the voters at Town Meeting.
The decisions about municipal facilities that voters have made have been difficult, and future decisions will be equally challenging. We hope that anyone who has any questions about these projects will take the time to attend or stream the upcoming Select Board meetings and public hearings. We hope that voters will take the time to understand these projects so that they can be confident in the decisions they make when they vote at Town Meeting.