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Voters down EMS bond

FALLS VILLAGE — Voters rejected a $2.5 million bond to build a new emergency services center in a referendum voteTuesday, Aug. 23.The vote was 230 against and 126 for — about a two to one ratio.Voter turnout was high. Included in the totals were 31 absentee ballots.Voting was open not only to registered voters in Falls Village but to those owning property worth $1,000 or more. The latter category accounted for 34 votes cast.After 15 years of planning and land acqusition, fundraising and applying for grants, and some construction, the new firehouse project was still short of almost three quarters of its projected cost — to the tune of about $2.5 million.The Falls Village Volunteer Fire Department held a series of public information meetings to explain the project. At the last meeting, on Aug. 2, First Selectman Pat Mechare provided a handout with four possible bonding scenarios.The options on Mechare’s handout include borrowing from a local bank — a 20-year loan at 3.96 percent interest, for an annual payment of $181,162.44. This option would have required a mill rate increase of .97 and the total amount of the loan would have been $3,623,247. That means a homeowner with a $100,000 assessment would have faced a property tax increase of $97 a year.Also included as possibilities were loans from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), including a 40-year option that required a special act of the state legislature. The interest rates for USDA 20-year, 30-year and 40-year loans were higher, at 4.25 percent. Mill rate increases would have been 1 mill, .79 mills and .70 mills, respectively.But the total amounts would have been significantly higher. The USDA 40-year loan would have ended up up costing more than $5 million.The first phase of site work at 188 Route 7 South is complete. That includes septic, a driveway and the hole for the cellar.Architectural, mechanical and civil engineering plans are ready, as is a bid-ready project specifications book.The existing firehouse is downtown, next door to the Falls Village Inn. It is on two floors, and at 3,528 square feet, the fire company feels it is far too small for the needs of a modern fire department.At 7,380 square feet, the rejected plan called for more than double the space the department currently has, including space for 10 vehicles in seven bays with entry from two sides. It would be able to accommodate the ladder truck from the Canaan Fire Company when it comes to Falls Village on standby.The plan also included space for a kitchen and two offices, along with meeting, storage and mechanical rooms.Mechare, who is the secretary of the building committee for the project, said Tuesday, Aug. 30, that the committee would present options to the fire department at the latter’s regular monthly meeting on Sept. 13.

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