CVS to rescue Berkshire fire district

Fire district voters this summer approved financing to replace the department’s 60-year-old Fire Sta

For the Berkshire Volunteer Fire Department, the offer came at just the right time.

Fire district voters this summer approved financing to replace the department’s 60-year-old Fire Station No. 1, but bids came in so high that the district rejected them, halting an expansion project two years in the making.

Almost immediately, Board of Fire Commissioners Chairman Bruce Heberer heard from CVS Pharmacies. It wanted to purchase the small fire station and its 1.67 acres of property on East Fulton Street Extension at a hefty price — $750,000.

It would be enough money to allow the department to buy a larger property in a better location, and still have some money left over to put toward construction of the new firehouse.

“This ended up being a blessing in disguise,” Heberer said.

Residents of the southeast portion of the town of Johnstown are set to vote on the sale from 6 to 9 p.m. Nov. 22 at Station No. 1.

CVS has already allocated funding to break ground on the new store, pending an affirmative vote. Heberer said a public hearing was held Tuesday on the proposed sale, attracting a handful of residents who mainly asked questions about the proposed CVS.

Once the sale is approved, the Fire Department will be able to buy the Fireside Restaurant on Steele Avenue Extension.

Heberer said the department looked at several other locations, but Fireside’s owner made the most reasonable offer. Restaurant owner Richard Snow could not be reached for comment for this story, and Heberer would not disclose the sale price.

Once the sale is complete, the restaurant would be demolished and a new firehouse would be built on the 8.5-acre site.

“It’s a better location,” Heberer said. “But at the end of the day it comes down to finances and whether or not we have to raise the tax rate. The prospect of selling our current property to CVS allows us to put a down payment on the new building, and it would allow us to not raise taxes.”

As part of an agreement with CVS, the fire department would be able to occupy Station No. 1 until the new firehouse is built.

Residents of the Berkshire Fire District in late June approved a $3 million, 30-year bond for construction of a new fire station that would be built on land adjacent to the current building.

And although department engineers estimated the cost on the high side, in hopes that bids would come in lower, the bids were more than the department and taxpayers could afford, so the project was set for re-bid in January. Heberer said the lowest bid came in around $2.4 million and the highest at $3.1 million. And these prices weren’t including interest or additional costs for plumbing and heating.

“This is definitely a plus for the taxpayers of the districts,” Heberer said of the proposed CVS sale. “We had downsized the building plans already and were going to have to keep doing so. From the beginning of the expansion plans two years ago, we wanted to try and afford it without raising taxes. This sale is going to allow us to do that.”

Although Fire Station No. 1 will be sold for $750,000, the department will see $675,000 after a commission is paid to a real estate agent, Heberer said.

The fire department also operates a satellite station on County Highway 107.

Regional CVS officials directed comment to the company’s public relations office, which did not return calls. Heberer said CVS plans to shut down its current store in Gloversville’s Arterial Plaza once the new store opens.

He said designs for a new station are still similar to earlier ones. The department had proposed a 10,000-square-foot fire station that would include four truck bays, meeting quarters, two bathrooms, a kitchen and a community room.

“We’re not going to change much,” Heberer said. “The bigger the size, the more it costs. This allows for future expansion in a pretty good, wooded area. It’s a very nice location for the fire department and more in the center of our district.”

Categories: Schenectady County

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