Last November, the Quonset Development Corporation gave the town until June 30 to relocate its fire maintenance operation, which has been housed in a building on Power Street.
That move had been a long time coming, officials acknowledge. Ocean State Job Lot acquired an option to buy the property from QDC several years ago and that option expires in November. So, the town must move its fire maintenance.
There are options, but the Town Council has not yet committed to a plan.
Several weeks ago, Town Manager Michael Embury told the Council he was negotiating with QDC on a long-term lease for the old Bostitch building on Callahan Road. QDC approved a 10-year, $1.2 million lease on the building, with Town Councilors Liz Dolan and Richard Welch (who also sit on the QDC board) abstaining.
The Council, however, voted 2-3 against the lease option, with Dolan and Carol Hueston voting for it and Welch, Kerry McKay and Kevin Maloney voting against.
"It was not a permanent answer," said Welch. "It was a 10-year lease with no option to buy. It requires an awful lot of work to the building to accommodate the different uses needed."
The town does own land next to the Department of Public Works facility on Babcock Road. In fact, Embury and others say the land was acquired six years ago to provide space to build a fire maintenance facility.
But the town's arrangement with QDC for use of the building on Power Street – the town pays no rent, only the cost of utilities – made any move that would cost significant money easy to put off.
After the Town Council failed to approve leasing the Bostitch building, discussion of what to do turned to the possibility of purchasing a prefabricated structure to place at on that town-owned land next to DPW.
Fire maintenance is not the only piece of the puzzle however. The town is also looking to maintain a climate-controlled document storage space and it would like a place to house golf carts. It quickly became clear at a meeting earlier this month that there were many unanswered questions regarding such a project, including whether or not the land next to DPW could accommodate a building large enough for all those purposes.
For Welch, the June 30 deadline is an artificial emergency.
"Is there an emergency here? I don’t believe it is," he said. "It’s not an emergency until the weather gets cold."
In the meantime, he said, the Town Council needs to look at issue with an eye to a more permanent solution. As for fire maintenance in the interim? The town could use space at DPW, Welch suggested.
For Embury, there's a sense of frustration.
"The property was bought about six years ago," he said. "We knew it was coming. We’re here."
The council has tapped the School Facilities Committee to look at the various options. The topic will be back on the council's agenda at its meeting on Monday.