NEWBURYPORT — When it comes down to it, the replacement of the West End fire station is “the No. 1 capital improvement need” for the city, according to Ward 2 city councilor and new council President Jared Eigerman.
“No one can defend the condition of that station,” Eigerman told Local Pulse host Joe DiBiase. “It’s basically a glorified garage. It’s a garage where you have firefighters sleeping next to the engines separated by a plaster wall.”
The West End fire station is decades old and in dire shape. The city has been looking at replacing the station, but the cost of doing so is a concern.
“We’re in overtime already,” Eigerman said on the internet radio show Saturday. “It must be replaced. It’s hard to conceive of a more important investment that the taxpayers can make than that station.”
The city is looking at a location on Storey Avenue across from the C&J bus station, Eigerman said. “The question is how big a station and at what cost?”
Going into this project, the city is cognizant that the Central Fire Station is over 40 years old. It may look at moving administrative offices to the proposed West End station.
“Rather than doing two capital projects, why don’t we deal with some of the inadequacies of the Central Fire Station by putting it into the new Cutter West End Station,” Eigerman said.
He emphasized the importance of building a new station, as opposed to renovating the current one, so that firefighters are not displaced.
Eigerman discussed other city concerns with DiBiase on an extended segment of the show, such as finding a home for Newburyport Youth Services.
“We need to figure out a permanent home for them,” he said, adding how important it is for children to have a place to go after school.
For now, Youth Services occupies the first floor of the former Brown School in the South End, which requires renovations of its own.
The city hosted a public hearing Wednesday to review reuse restrictions for a Massachusetts National Guard garage at 57 Low St., a property that has been declared surplus. The hearing was conducted by the state Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance.
As a land-use attorney, Eigerman has concerns about the wetlands, saying, “The majority of that site is actually a marsh, and it connects to the marsh behind the National Guard parking lot.”
To provide an example of what this means, Eigerman said to just look at Phillips Drive, “a subdivision built in the late ‘60s which should not have been built.”
The residents of Phillips Drive live on a wetland, which has caused major drainage problems, especially with climate change.
“That’s going to cost us millions of dollars to fix, which of course, we haven’t identified where to get that money,” he said.
“So, filling in another marshland to do a Youth Services center with a parking lot and a gymnasium, there’s aspects to that that we really have to think about carefully.”
Local Pulse is broadcast live from 9 to 10 a.m. on Saturdays from the newsroom of The Daily News. To listen live or download previous shows, go to www.NewburyportNews.com/LocalPulse.
Staff writer Heather Alterisio can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 978-961-3149. Follow her on Twitter @HeathAlt.