Marina offers Belmont $240,000 for old WInnisquam Fire Station

BELMONT — Selectmen voted unanimously last night to accept a letter of interest from Winnisquam Marine to purchase the former Winnisquam Fire Station for $240,000.

The "expression of interest"from the marina is $5,000 more than the assessed value would be if the town didn't own it.

The old firehouse is directly across Sunset Drive from the marina.

Winnisquam Marine was the only entity to make an expression of interest. The actions of selectmen last night mean that the "expression" can legally be put on the town warrant at Annual Town meeting.

Selectmen haven't crafted the actual wording of the warrant article but last night unanimously, but informally, agreed they would like the money, should town voters accept the offer, to be put into the Building Maintenance Capital Reserve account.

Marina president Ed Crawford said in his written offer that the three garage bays would be used for servicing boats. He said that Winnisquam Marine works on boats year-round and the three additional bays would be perfect for his operation.

He described his business as environmentally sensitive and quiet. An added benefit, he said, would be to ease some of the parking problems created in the summer by his marina.

In October, selectmen voted to lease the station to the marina for storage. The marina has plowed and kept up the surrounding parking lot. Crawford said his company has always worked well with the Belmont Fire Department and had made various donations to what was once an all-volunteer department.

The building has not been used as a fire station, except for storage and for occasionally responding to the lake with the fire boat, for the seven years since the former Winnisquam Fire District disbanded. Repeated attempts by elected officials in the towns of Tilton and Sanbornton to put the station back into service have failed. About five years ago, the Department of Parks and Recreation took over one half of the building.

Earlier this year, a town study performed on all municipal buildings concluded that the building was in too much disrepair for use as a fire station. In November, the Belmont Department of Parks and Recreation relocated from their half of the building to the second floor of the Belmont Mill into a space once used as a classroom and vacated in 2012 by the Lakes Region Community College Culinary Program.

The meeting hall, said Crawford, would be used for administration, merchandise and parts which would free some space at the existing marina now used for sales and a showroom. The second floor would be used for records storage.

Crawford said he would power wash and paint the exterior and do some landscaping around the building. He provided selectmen with a contractors estimate for $71,000 from a local contractor to do some immediate repairs and expects to spend more on the building as his marina expands.

This is the second major marine purchase and third large property purchase made recently by Crawford. He also purchased the former Adams Marina in Tilton for $750,000 in 2012 and in 2004 he bought the former Sarge's County Store property, also in Tilton, for $400,000.

Selectmen noted last night that Crawford was the only entity who offered an expression of interest in the building when the town advertised it.