A newly-formed building review committee will steer the Cambridge Community Fire and EMS Commission’s next steps following failed April referendums to expand the fire and EMS station in Cambridge.
The fire and EMS commission unanimously voted on April 29 to create the committee. The hope is for it to begin meeting in mid-May.
The $6.5 million expansion of the station, that had been proposed to update and roughly triple the size of the nearly 40-year-old station on West Main Street, is in limbo after 3 of 5 area referendums failed on April 6.
The villages of Cambridge and Rockdale and towns of Oakland, Christiana and Lake Mills have long split the cost of providing fire and EMS service in the Cambridge area based on their equalized values. The referendums failed in Christiana, Cambridge and Oakland and passed in Rockdale and the town of Lake Mills.
The committee expects to meet twice a month into late summer or early fall, and to then bring a recommendation to the fire and EMS commission that would also need approval from all five municipalities. Its members will include village and town elected representatives who don’t sit on the commission, fire and EMS department heads and citizens at large.
Pizza Pit propertyThe commission also discussed the status of the property the station has been proposed to expand onto.
Per an agreement between five towns and villages signed in 2019, in which Christiana bought an adjoining Pizza Pit restaurant site for $280,000 and the other four agreed to eventually pay the town back for their shares of that purchase, the referendums had to pass for the project to proceed.
When the purchase deal was approved, the commission didn’t have the money to buy the land itself, Cambridge Village President Mark McNally said. “You, Christiana, were the only ones who had the money to do this,” McNally said.
New Christiana Town Chairman Mark Cook, who replaced former chairman Maureen Lien in mid-April, said the town board has now proposed selling that parcel to the fire and EMS commission.
“The consensus would be to sell it to the fire commission…but we don’t know if you have the money to do that,” Cook said.
Oakland Town Chairman Eugene Kapsner questioned whether there might be a simpler fix, updating the 2019 agreement “so the town of Christiana would be protected.”
“The commission doesn’t have the reserves,” to buy the Pizza Pit property outright, Kapsner continued. “We would have to go out and borrow the money to make that purchase.”
The commission in the end voted to take no action, asking that the Christiana Town Board keep talking about options.
Cook agreed to take it back to the town board “and see what they want to do.”