A vision for a secure future
Former Salmon River school property proposed as ideal site for new fire hall
It’s only a vacant piece of property with dilapidated playground equipment now, but when Tim Johnson thinks about the former Salmon River Elementary school grounds he envisions much more.
“When you look at the big picture I could see ground search and rescue, special hazards, a training facility along with a firehall,” said the deputy chief of the Salmon River Fire Brigade. “That’s what I see it as, a multi-purpose or multi-use piece of property.”
The brigade currently operates out of a building that Johnson estimates to be at least 100 years old. At some point in the not too distant future he feels the structure will have outlived its reasonable usefulness.
“It’s hard to heat, it’s an old structure, it’s hard to maintain,” he said. “It doesn’t really fit what we do today as a firefighting community.”
Another concern is that the existing facility is on the wrong side of the railroad tracks from the area’s current and future residential development.
The former Salmon River school site, meanwhile, is a vacant property of slightly more than 16 acres of land that Johnson feels would be ideal for construction of a new fire hall and a host of related components.
“If we were to acquire this property,” he wrote in a recent letter to the Municipality of Colchester, which owns the school property, “this would allow us to move forward in the future with a plan to build a new fire station and possibly a modern training facility, not only for our growing district but for all volunteer firefighters, within the County of Colchester and possibly beyond.”
Attracting new volunteers is difficult enough, Johnson said. Add in the fact they have to operate out of an outdated facility that can’t offer adequate training amenities, and the task is that much greater.
“It’s on the right side of the tracks it’s closer to the main core of the area, it just makes sense,” he said.
Colchester Mayor Christine Blair said the municipality supports the brigade’s request in principle for at least a portion of the property, but more information is required before a decision can be made.
“We haven’t decided yet how much that would be because it needs to have an analysis,” she said. “We need to know what their business plan is going to be, what their time frame is going to be and then we will determine. We may need part of that land ourselves.”
From Johnson’s perspective, however, turning over the entire property to the brigade to develop as both a firehall and for related uses, just makes sense for the greater good of the community at large.
“If nobody goes ahead and has a vision, we are going to be in the same place 25 years from now and racing to get to fires that we’re on the wrong side of the tracks from,” he said.
Salmon River Fire Brigade hopes to convince the county to donate the former Salmon River Elementary school property for construction of a new hall and possibly related training facilities.