Second Billerica Fire Station Study Planned

November 10, 2018

BILLERICA -- More than eight months after selectmen reviewed a study examining the town’s Fire Department -- including the feasibility of using the old Ditson Elementary School as a station -- the town is going out to bid on a second study.

Town Manager John Curran said the second study would dive deeper into conceptual design and the logistics of siting another fire station, including the possibility of moving north or building new at the Pinehurst station on 793 Boston Road.

Curran said the town set aside $100,000 for the first study, which ultimately cost far less, about $40,000. This left over sum will fund the second study, which does not have a final cost, he said.

He expects it will be six to nine months before the study is released.

In the meantime, the fate of the of the old Ditson School, which was vacated by the Middlesex Sheriff’s Office three years ago, remains in limbo.

“There’s very little we can do until we know what we’re doing with the fire station,” said Selectman Kim Conway during a discussion last week.

The earlier study found moving the station from the too-small Pinehurst location to the old Ditson would not sufficiently improve response times. However, Curran said the former school is a good candidate for a temporary fire station if the town decides to move forward with a remodel at Pinehurst or other plans.

“In any scenario we want to keep the Ditson available,” Curran said.

The future use of the old Ditson school has been contentious among neighbors, who last year petitioned against a potential housing project on the land. Other ideas like a public recreation facility or a park have also been floated by residents.

Last week, Selectman George Simolaris asked about a drawing of a housing plan he heard about for the plot and Curran said this dated from a few years ago. Curran said any plan for the town-owned property would first come before the Board of Selectmen, and likely Town Meeting.

Selectman Michael Rosa said he was unsatisfied with the work the company conducting the study, Matrix Consulting Group, performed and asked to hire a different company for this study.

Curran contested some of Rosa’s concerns, but said the scope of the second study requires work that Matrix Consulting Group does not perform, so the study will be done by a different company.

This study, released in February, recommends moving the Pinehurst station further from the Burlington line and down Boston Road. It also suggested adding another fire station for the Middlesex Turnpike region and keeping ambulances centrally located.

Additionally, the study recommended operational changes, some which have been implemented, according to the town.

According to the town, the department is currently developing a prioritized maintenance plan and performing internal upgrades to two stations.

Follow Elizabeth Dobbins on Twitter @ElizDobbins

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