Onset Fire Department requests $13.9 million station

By Matthew Bernat | May 01, 2017
Fire officials will seek voter approval for a new $13.9 million station at the Annual Onset Fire District Meeting on May 15.

The Onset Fire Department is hoping to expand, with a new $13.9 million fire station proposed on Sand Pond Road.

Onset residents will weigh in on the request at the annual Onset Fire District meeting, set for May 15 at 7:30 p.m. The meeting will be held in the Dudley L. Brown Veterans of Foreign Wars Post #2846, located at 4 Gibbs Ball Park Road. All Onset Fire District registered voters may participate.

Over the past few years, Onset Fire Chief Ray Goodwin has made a case for a new building through a series of open houses, designed to show the public the need for an expanded station.

Built 72 years ago, the current station’s size is woefully inadequate for a modern fire service, Goodwin said. One glaring example, he noted, is the fact that the department’s ladder truck is too large for the bay and must be parked off site.

The department’s mission and call volume have expanded dramatically over the past 70 years, according to Todd Costa, an architect with Kaestle Boos Associates, Inc. The firm was tasked with designing the new station. In 1950, the department averaged 285 calls per year. In 2015, that number climbed to 1,989.

Costa noted that in 1950, the department was solely focused on fire suppression. Now its duties include not only fire suppression, but hazardous material response, search and rescue operations, fire prevention education and much more.

The new station’s design, which was unveiled at a Onset Fire Department open house on Saturday, reflects that, Costa said.

Plans call for a two-story building with space to house the department’s nine vehicles under one roof. New bunks, space for training exercises, a fitness area, space for equipment storage and a community room able to fit 100 people are included, too. Costa said there are plans to use the community room for Onset Fire District meetings, instead of renting space from the Veterans of Foreign Wars each year.

Costa said two other potential sites were examined in addition to the Sand Pond Road site, which is located across the street from Onset Water Department headquarters. Officials considered rebuilding at the current site and building new on a lot adjacent to the nearby Hammond School.

Rebuilding at the current spot would have required a three-story building and an exorbitant price tag, said Costa. The Hammond School site was also unfeasible due to a deed restriction requiring the space be used for educational purposes.

Goodwin said the station’s downtown location is ideal for community engagement – his door is always open, he says – but the department has outgrown the 2 and a half acre lot.

“We have a lot of equipment, but nowhere to store it properly,” said Goodwin.

While planning for the new station has been ongoing, Goodwin said he pushed for its inclusion on this year’s Fire District agenda in order to lock in current low interest loan rates. Waiting longer might drive up the cost, he said.

If approved, the station would cost residents an additional $1.44 per $1,000 of assessed home value for a 20-year loan or $1.19 per $1,000 assessed home value for a 30-year loan. For a home valued at $250,000, those would be $360 and $297 annual increases, respectively.

Marcine Fernandes, a member of the district’s Prudential Committee, argued that now was the time for a new station and to make sure it’s done correctly.

“If we’re going to rebuild let’s do this the right way,” said Fernandes. “We need a station that’s going to last for 50 to 75 years. We need to build for the future and that’s what these plans will do.”

Comments (44)
Posted by: cranky pants | May 01, 2017 16:57

I'm no abacus, but that's a very honorable donation you're expecting the people of Onset to absorb over the next 20 or 30 years. Looks like since Wareham got it's water treatment project shoved through this may fly as well.

Posted by: Andrea Smith | May 01, 2017 17:08

Wow, all that and for only $1.4 million more than the new water treatment plant approved by Wareham Water District voters.


By the way, thanks for presenting the cost to residents in an easily calculated formula of per $1000 of assessed home value. So often the cost of big ticket items are unveiled to the public based upon the cost to the "average" home owner, leaving those with homes which are assessed either less or more than average with an often difficult to calculate personal financial impact, and a bit suspicious as to why the more easily calculated formula wasn't provided.

Posted by: deanmartin | May 01, 2017 18:04

Bend over Onset residents. This will pass because the employees, relatives and various hangers on will pack the meeting and vote it in. As a seasonal resident I get no vote but have to pay for it. Taxation without representation. Yet another reason to sell and get the hell out of Wareham. Get ready to pay for a bunch of kids in your school system when I sell my seasonal cottage to a year round family.

Posted by: wtbarber | May 01, 2017 18:23

I still don't understand why Onset and Wareham are separate districts.  I'm not concerned about the extra cost, but what is the reasoning behind a $13.9 million station for 1500 year round residents?  If they somehow decided to merge, would there be room in the Wareham buildings for the additional equipment?


In this article . . . "Built 72 years ago, the current station’s size is woefully inadequate for a modern fire service, Goodwin said. One glaring example, he noted, is the fact that the department’s ladder truck is too large for the bay and must be parked off site."


Wareham Fire in this other article . . .    http://wareham-ma.villagesoup.com/p/wareham-fire-district-voters-to-face-12-5-million-question/1640210

"Over the ladder truck’s life, the department has invested at least $25,000 for body work. He noted that the cost to replace the truck entirely would be between $1.2 million and $1.4 million."



Posted by: Rjnjr09 | May 02, 2017 00:27

what about the space behind star light motel or the space across from lopes park. Seeing as how onset fire responds to Indian Mound Beach and Jefferson Shores area as well. However the lot cross from Lopes Park would still keep the fire dept. in the heart of onset.  I just feel like there are more spaces that could be utilized. However, I am very glad the ball is rolling and they have my vote!!!!  Good luck and that you onset fire for all that you brave men and women do for our town!

Posted by: Rjnjr09 | May 02, 2017 00:28

Thank You** onset fire


Posted by: Spherebreaker | May 02, 2017 07:23

"In 1950, the department averaged 285 calls per year. In 2015, that number climbed to 1,989."    1975 of these calls are BS rolls just to pad the numbers. Wareham fire house is coming next and will have to be bigger and more money to stay in the game. There is no reason in the universe that can explain the need for 2 separate districts in Town, NONE!. There is also no reason a garage with a chili kitchen should cost $13.9 million.

Posted by: Rjnjr09 | May 02, 2017 11:58

SPHERE- Say a fire or an MVA took place at the Jefferson Shores light. A fire unit would have to respond from Main St, Wareham. That Is about a 15 minute response time from the placing phone call. However if the fire dept. was to be say, moved to cranberry hwy (combining Wareham & Onset fire) a fire on Papermil Rd or County Rd would be catastrophic! the response times would be astronomical.  I am a firm believer that two districts are necessary for that reason alone. Response times are what matter the most between life and death.  Not to begin any argument, this is just my opinion.

Posted by: Rjnjr09 | May 02, 2017 12:03

I do agree $13.9 million is an awful lot of money, But the size of the apparatus and the amount does not help either. That building needs to be big enough to house all the equipment because if we pay for a new engine or portable light unit or marine apparatus ill be damned if it is left outside!  The people who man this equipment need a proper place to live as well. Maybe a few more estimates are in order for cost reason, just not sure the price margin will change much.

Posted by: Snowman | May 02, 2017 12:14

Onset clearly  needs a new Fire House.  In the village.  Lets improve the Village and not be short sighted and stick it out in the woods


This plan seems to be a first draft which I would hope includes a long list of "Like to haves" vs "Must haves" such as adding a 100 person "meeting space".

More importantly, why add to the mayhem on Cranberry Highway with 1,989 Emergency calls per year?  Which by the way equals twice that number accounting for the return trip.   Imagine pulling Fire  Emergency Vehicles onto Cranberry Highway an extra 3,978 per year . Simple  math = 10.9 average times every day.

Now add the new Sonic Burger's extra traffic to that corner.


Posted by: Spherebreaker | May 02, 2017 12:41

Lets just say that there was 1 district or the FD was run by the Town. There would be no need to have 2 of everything and existing stations would fit the correct amount of equipment for the Town. The Jefferson shore issue would be responded to from the Sand pond site. Onset village station would be sold. There are too many stations and no need to build another. Combine the districts and disperse the existing equipment to the building we have. If we have duplicates sell them. Duplicate staff will be eliminated. They are doing what the Schools are doing, bloating themselves so they can squeeze as much as they can out of the ratepayer. Once this station is built they will say they are under staffed and need more people to properly staff. MARK MY WORDS for I am the Sphere.

Posted by: cranky pants | May 02, 2017 12:51

I'm not saying we don't need a new firehouse... But I am saying more thought needs to go into the spending spree. We're talking about building a new place to store a ladder truck that is almost capable of reaching double the height of any building in Onset.

We've got fire stations in town that aren't manned yet we need a new place with state of the art amenities ?

All I can say is the last person to leave Onset and Wareham please turn out the lights and be sure the water is off....

Posted by: Newlyaresident | May 02, 2017 12:55

$14 million dollars is just plain ridiculous. It a firehouse not a country club!

Posted by: Spherebreaker | May 02, 2017 14:46

I have been warning of this for years. They will get bigger and bigger and tax more and more until you stop them. How much more before you need to leave? How much more does your standard of living need to fall before you say enough? 

Posted by: Spherebreaker | May 02, 2017 14:48

I have been warning of this for years. They will get bigger and bigger and tax more and more until you stop them. How much more before you need to leave? How much more does your standard of living need to fall before you say enough? 

Posted by: Newlyaresident | May 02, 2017 15:17

The new ladder truck must be parked "off site". That would be the Onset water dept. building. Since it fits in there, the fire dept. and water dept. should swap buildings. The water dept. building was hugely overbuilt back in the day and it's big enough to accommodate the fire dept. including most trucks and equipment.

Posted by: Randall Stephens | May 02, 2017 20:49

So Onset could NOT have Fireworks last year for the 4th of July because not enough money was made available ?

Posted by: WantToSeeChange | May 02, 2017 21:56


Yes.  The Onset Bay Association could not raise enough money via donations to have the fireworks last year.

Are you suggesting the fire department could have paid for them?  I don't get your question.  If that is what you are saying, I would say it makes about as much sense as me saying I don't have a boat but my neighbor is rich so I should have a boat.  See what I mean?

Posted by: Swifts_Sheriff | May 03, 2017 10:04

Let me get this straight .. Someone buys a ladder truck , it arrives and it doesn't fit in the Station , really ? It's like they bought a Prius .And now they want 13 million dollars ha ha. The two department system is antiquated ... It's time for one department.

Posted by: Peaches0409 | May 03, 2017 10:26

Swifts, absolutely on point! How about we get rid of the duplication of service before we shell out $13 million for a new station?


Posted by: Andrea Smith | May 03, 2017 10:33

Unfortunately a lot of communities are facing the dilemma of fire stations constructed at a time when fire trucks were much smaller and when people did not envision that newer fire trucks would one day be so large that they would not fit older fire stations.


This is not a case of the fire department choosing to purchase a big truck instead of a smaller truck. Modern fire trucks are simply far larger than anyone ever imagined they would be in 1945.

Posted by: cranky pants | May 03, 2017 10:55

How's the idea of buying a fire truck that meets your needs and not exceeds your needs sound ?

I bought a big jeep and then lifted the thing to the point it don't fit in my garage anymore... Time to setup a gofundme account so my neighbors can build me a bigger house and garage.

I'll be purchasing property up north of anyone is interested in tagging along.

Posted by: Swifts_Sheriff | May 03, 2017 18:00

Andrea there's this thing called ordering to size . . I worked on a dept where one of our engines had to be customed built because of size restrictions. Seems to me someone bought the Big Caddy on purpose so they can turn around and say see we need a bigger station . I got an idea fire the person who ordered the oversized truck . ONE DEPARTMENT... There's plenty of room for everyone ...

Posted by: Chaka | May 03, 2017 20:34

So annoyed by this. Why on earth would We care what the architect thinks. "The department’s mission and call volume have expanded dramatically over the past 70 years, according to Todd Costa, an architect with Kaestle Boos Associates, Inc." The firm was tasked with designing the new station. Let him pay for it.

Posted by: Chaka | May 03, 2017 20:43

And a community room for 100 people so they won't have to pay money to rent a room from the VFW. Yeah that's worth 14 million dollars. Man, these are terrible arguments. Why not use the auditorium at the town hall for free.

But if you criticize the fire dept you are bad. I love and respect firemen, but I don't think they need this kind of facility. Why can't our financially mismanaged town contribute half the money? Where are the grants?

There was never a better time to combine the fire departments. We can't afford this.




Posted by: Chaka | May 03, 2017 20:45

Another ridiculous quote "Rebuilding at the current spot would have required a three-story building and an exorbitant price tag," said Costa.

What does he think 14 million dollars is? Reasonable?

Posted by: Chaka | May 03, 2017 20:56

While I'm complaining...at the recent town hall meeting, the selectmen, the voters and the other committee heads turned down the idea of pot stores which the voters voted for. The proceeds from that business could easily fund this station.

Pot Proceeds could also fund the multi million dollar wareham water pollution control facility (to clean up the cranberry industry's chemical leavings). But they didn't even demand answers from the cranberry growers. They just passed on the cost to the idiot sheep of Wareham.

I don't ever want to hear the selectmen complain "we have no money" when they won't allow something that would have made this town a fortune. Fools. All five of them.


Posted by: Andrea Smith | May 03, 2017 21:00

Swifts - Do you know for a fact, or are you assuming based upon the experience that you mentioned, that the height of a modern fire truck with a ladder that has the capabilities of the already purchased truck could have been customized so that it would fit through the Onset Fire Department's parking bay entrance and also fit inside the garage without either the parking bay entrance or the ceiling and second floor above the parking bay undergoing reconstruction?

Posted by: Chaka | May 03, 2017 21:41

I looked at kaestle boos, the architects website which mentions some of their other firestation projects. Carver got a gorgeous fire station with parking for 10 firetrucks and brand new everything for 9 million dollars. Carver also found a really ingenious way to pay for it, which did not involve passing the cost on to the taxpayers. See town of carvers website for details.

Sandwich, which has a population of 23,000, is getting a new fire station and a new police station With an estimated cost of 12 million for BOTH.

So why is our one fire station costing 14 million?

Posted by: Chaka | May 03, 2017 22:14

there is an empty, unused fire station at the corner of Onset Ave and depot street, across from the bank. Any chance that building could fit the big truck? I wonder what happened there? Why isn't it used? Can it be sold to make a tiny dent in this giant price tag.

If the Onset fire dept moves and they sell their current site, I guarantee the town will buy it and use it as a parking lot for our 10 weeks of summer.

Who checks to make sure only registered voters who live in the Onset fire district can vote on the new station? You know the fire dept will bring in everyone they can.


Posted by: Swifts_Sheriff | May 03, 2017 22:46

Andrea , I know for a fact and from helping my former department with the specs of  the vehicle we needed . Even took a trip to the factory to check the vehicle out as it was being built to make sure it was being built to our specs down in Pennsylvania. So yeah they could have gotten a Ladder that fit in their Barn .  BTW I know what I am taking about ..

Posted by: cranky pants | May 04, 2017 07:44

Chaka for Selectman !!!I Let the sale of recreational marijuana pay for this stuff, seeing how we voted yes for it already but somehow we're getting slagged.

I would love to know where the extra money goes on these projects. Sandwich and Carver can do it for millions less...

Sorta like that stupid dog park someone wanted to build for $156,000 when the town of Bourne put one in for just under $60,000.


Posted by: Spherebreaker | May 04, 2017 07:58

Chaka, Its 14 Million because its not a fire station, its a temple to power and excess. This is how these organizations measure and display their power and control. Onset and Depot station cannot be used by Onset, why because its the Wareham fire districts building and we are idiots and have not done away with 2 separate Fire and Water districts. Taxpayers are doomed in Wareham with the way things are being done. 

Posted by: WWareham resident | May 04, 2017 10:13

This is absolute BS. $14 million to pay for Onset Fire and Spa, what a joke. The selectmen should be ashamed of themselves. Stick your hand in your own damn pockets and stop stealing from mine. Damn clowns all 5 of them.

Posted by: PMB | May 04, 2017 10:53

WWareham Resident, you should have the facts concerning an Onset Fire Station and its relationship to the Selectmen.  The Wareham Board of Selectmen have absolutely no control or influence over whether or not a new fire station is built in Onset.  The Onset Fire Distrist, and Wareham Fire District are separate, independent governmental entities that have no direct connection to the Wareham town government.  They are chartered by the state, and operate with their own governmental structure (i.e. Prudential Committees, Clerk Treasurers, District Meetings, etc.).  Calling the Selectmen "clowns" is rather unfair, since they have nothing to do with the proposal for a new fire station in Onset.  Furthermore, if you are in fact, a resident of West Wareham, as your name implies, the building of a fire station in Onset will NOT be "stealing from" YOUR pocket.  You will not pay one dime toward the construction of a fire station outside of your district, anymore than you would be asked to contribute to the construction of a fire station in Marion or Rochester.


It's totally up to the voters in the Onset Fire and Water District as to whether they wish to shoulder this expense, but unless you live within the Onset District, you have no say in the matter and will not pay for it in any way.  It appears that many comments here opposed to this proposal are being made by people who don't live in the Onset District and are just using this issue to vent about their opposition to the district system.  Maybe that's what got you all riled up, but fear not, the "damn clowns won't be stealing" from you this time.

Posted by: cranky pants | May 04, 2017 16:54

I'd love to see what this " exorbitant price tag " would be to rebuild the current building...  I don't care if you need to make it 5 stories high, at least the oversized truck we purchased would be put to good use installing Christmas lights on the top of the newly renovated station.

Would it be close to 14 million, probably not. Then again we wouldn't have an awesome chili kitchen and massage parlor.

I respect our fire fighters and first responders whole heartedly, but this " mine's bigger than yours " game needs to quit.


Posted by: Hairy Buttz | May 04, 2017 16:56

bow chicka wow wow

Posted by: Andrea Smith | May 04, 2017 17:38

Chaka - Regarding your concern about who can vote, I suggest you call the Onset Fire Department and ask them what the requirements are in order for someone to vote on the proposed fire station at the district meeting.


In general every Onset Fire District resident whether they are for or against the proposed new fire station should be speaking to neighbors  and other Onset Fire District residents and reminding them of the district meeting and encouraging them to vote.

Posted by: SGT | May 04, 2017 17:56

Is the new station in the flood plain?  This is a concern.  I believe Hurricane Carole flooded that area.

Posted by: wtbarber | May 04, 2017 22:50

I don't know how other Onset residents feel.  If I have to help pay for a 14 million dollar building that would be by far the most expensive structure in the town . . . I want it built in ONSET, not hidden away in Wareham.  Demolish the inconvenience store and the old fire house cafe building in town and build this new one.

Posted by: WantToSeeChange | May 05, 2017 09:38

Where is this "Sand Pond" site?  I am assuming it is "Sandy Pond"?  If so , it is a 15 minute drive from there to a fire in Onset.  That is by today's traffic.  What about in the Summer?

Posted by: wtbarber | May 05, 2017 12:32

Sand pond is where the Onset water dept is now.  It's the road behind Salvation Army on Cranberry highway.

Posted by: wtbarber | May 05, 2017 12:41

erased : )

Posted by: WantToSeeChange | May 05, 2017 18:28

Oh, ok!  That makes a hell of a lot more sense than where I was thinking.  Thanks for the clarification.

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