HYANNIS – Supporters of a new $18 million fire headquarters in Hyannis were unable to muster the necessary two-thirds majority at a district meeting at Barnstable High School last night.
The final tally was 298 in favor and 164 opposed to the station.
Passage by two-thirds fell short by just eight votes.
After the vote, Hyannis Fire Chief Harold Brunelle expressed disappointment.
“A lot of work goes into it. A lot of hard work over many years now. The public stuff has been going on for two and a half years but behind the scenes it’s been well over ten years we’ve been working on the project and we’re in desperate need of a new facility, so of course it’s very disappointing,” Brunelle said.
Moving forward, Brunelle said there are repairs that will need to be made in the near term on the fire station.
“A lot of money is going to have to be put into the existing facility . . . eventually, some day, a new facility will be built and all the money will be wasted, so it’s unfortunate,” he said.
The vote came after almost two hours of confusion in the auditorium at the Performing Arts Center at Barnstable High School. For the first half hour of the meeting, the sound system did not work and neither the audience nor those on stage could hear clearly what was being said.
A call by Hyannis District Moderator Hugh Findlay for speakers to sit down immediately after speaking was met with loud boos and calls of “Rude!” from the audience.
Applause erupted on both sides of the issue. Several speakers said the fire station was an important project that deserved support at any price. Others expressed confusion about the adjusted cost figures given by the district.
A chart that was projected on the screen listing the cost to taxpayers was unreadable but for two figures, the highest annual tax increase voters would need to pay, about $130, and the lowest figure they would need to pay, about $50. The district did not have handouts to distribute the figures to the crowd and several people asked for clarification on the meaning of the figures on the chart.
Several votes were taken. After the commissioners proposed an amendment to lower the cost based on the sale of real estate, a voice vote was taken and the amendment was defeated. That immediately led to calls from the audience that people did not know what they were voting for.
A motion was made to retake the amendment vote as a standing vote.
A voice vote to take a standing vote passed by a large majority. Then the standing vote on the amendment to lower the cost of the station passed by a large majority.
Finally it came time to take the vote on the main motion, to spend $17 million on the fire station. That vote was taken by secret ballot. Though a majority voted in favor, the motion did not achieve the two-thirds needed to pass.
Immediately after the vote, project opponent John Julius said he was happy the measure did not pass.
“I am absolutely awestruck. I just want to say thank you to all the voters in Hyannis who came and stood up to the plate and voted for certainly sanity with regard to numbers,” he said.
“This fire station is too big. It’s too expensive. We need a $12 million fire station and nothing more,” he said.
Julius has taken the fire district to court alleging that the district does not have the right to raise taxes more than two and a half percent per year. The district claims that the laws regarding Proposition 2 1/2 do not apply to fire districts, only municipalities.
Julius had a statement he wanted to give before the vote, but he did not have the opportunity to speak. In a parliamentary move, a speaker moved for the vote, ending discussion. That motion passed by a majority, cutting off comment.
Another person who was planning to speak was Deborah Krau, a member of the board of the Greater Hyannis Civic Association. Krau said she was planning to make an amendment to reduce the cost of the station.
Before the vote on the station took place, the fire commissioners presented a motion to reduce the cost by $1.2 million, the amount they believe they will receive by selling two parcels of district owned land.
The properties are an old unused fire station on Scudder Avenue in Hyannisport and a vacant commercially-zoned parcel on Pitcher’s Way, close to Route 132, in Hyannis.
The land was put out to bid for the sale but the high bids came in last Friday at less than $1 million, well under the $2 million projected by the district.
Paul V. Griffin Jr., project manager, said the district intends to put the properties back out for sale again with heavier marketing. He said they expect to receive $1.2 million for the properties. If they do not, he said, they will have to reduce the price tag of the project accordingly.