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Northfield EMS station gets Selectboard OK

NORTHFIELD — The town’s ambulance service is one step closer to its new home after the Selectboard approved its plans to move to a former Main Street gas station.

The Emergency Medical Services Department, currently housed in the fire station’s basement, has drawn up plans to move to the former Sunoco station at 41 Main St., owned by A.R. Sandri, Inc.

The Selectboard approved the plan, but asked that some language in the proposed lease be changed. The lease and their recommendations have been sent to the town’s lawyer for review and approval.

To be added to the lease is a stipulation that the landlord, not the town, be held accountable should the property show contamination from the former use as a gas and service station. The lease drawn up by Sandri provided that protection for gasoline contamination, but the board wanted it to include other contaminants as well.

Jeffrey Kocsis, district manager for Sandri, represented the company at Tuesday’s Selectboard meeting. He said he doesn’t think the stipulation will be a deal-breaker.

If approved by the town’s lawyers and Sandri, the Selectboard can sign the lease. The earliest opportunity would be the board’s next meeting, Oct. 30.

EMS Chief Mark Fortier has said he would be ready to begin the move in November. He said he’s eager to get out from under the fire station.

The 60-year-old fire station has seen better days. Its concrete floor under the fire trucks and above the ambulance is buckling, water leaking into the EMS’s basement home, board members were glad to put the department on its way to a new home.

It would also improve the look of Main Street.

“That spot has been a blight on Main Street,” said board member Jack Spanbauer. “It will be nice to see it used by the community.”

The gas station closed in 1998. Since then, Sandri has used it for storage. Its plate-glass window has been boarded up, its garage sign is missing letters and now reads “servic,” and its once-tarred driveway is covered in gravel and weeds, after the removal of its underground fuel tanks.

Fortier said the community has already offered to help. Companies and residents alike have offered their services to re-purpose the building and give it a face-lift as well. He also plans to add windows to the building, and re-configure the gas station’s bathroom, so the door is on the inside rather than the outside of the building.

These improvements were considered by Sandri, and rent was lowered to $7,800 per year, said Kocsis. He said the company also decided to foot the water bill.

Besides clearing out Sandri’s stuff and sprucing up the building, little is needed to make it move-in ready. Its two garage bays will easily fit the town’s ambulance, with room for another in the future. The department has been saving toward a second ambulance, and hopes to secure a grant toward its purchase.

The department is self-sufficient, with no money budgeted by the town. It bills patients served, and deposits that money into its enterprise fund, from which all expenditures are made. There’s enough left in the fund at the end of each year to cover rent and still turn a profit, said Fortier.

The board’s approval at Tuesday’s meeting was met by applause from the audience, some of whom used the meeting’s public comment period to urge the board to support the move.

“I feel this is a real gift to the town, and we should act on it as soon as possible,” said Gretchen Miller. “It’s the start of the cleaning-up of Main Street.”

“I think it’s a win-win for the town,” said Diane Cornwell. “I think it’s sorely needed. The conditions in the fire station are deplorable.”

The EMS originally intended to be part of an $8.8 million public safety complex including the Fire and Police departments, which was pared down to $7.5 million. Plans for the facility were shot down by voters at the May annual town meeting.

The station will be leased from Sandri on a year-to-year basis, so that the EMS department might be part of a public safety complex in the future.

David Rainville can be reached at:
or 413 772-0261, ext. 279

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