The village of Chester wants to replace its 60-year-old firehall, located on Central Street, because it can no longer accommodate modern firefighting equipment.
"The problem is the height of the doors," said Bill Nauss, the village commission's chairman. "It's hard to buy a fire engine that will fit in."
So the village commission is using $625,000 from its reserves to buy the Windjammer Motel property, which is on the outskirts of the community, in hopes that a new facility can be built there.
The site is about a kilometre from the current firehall. Nauss said it will provide easier access for volunteer firefighters.
The move concerns John Redden, a fire consultant based in New Brunswick, who is familiar with the Chester Fire Service.
"What they've done is move their firehall from the highest risk area to the outskirts," said Redden. "I think they're adding issues to the whole response curve of the fire department."
Chester resident Tom Mulrooney, a former member of the village commission, said he is not happy with how the issue has been handled so far. Mulrooney is worried about it becoming a multi-million dollar project.
"If they really believe that we needed this, they should have gone out and priced the whole thing, land, building, everything, and then have a meeting and present the whole package to the public," he said.
According to Redden, Mulrooney's concern is valid because he's seen firehall projects that end up costing up to $5 million.
But Nauss said a new firehall project will need approval from local residents and the Municipality of Chester as well as the blessing of the Municipal Affairs department before it can go ahead.
"We're not trying to hide anything, everything will be transparent," said Nauss. "We are taking the most fiscal approach that we can possibly take."
The village commission has posted a list of questions and answers about the firehall issue.
Nauss said even if the project is approved a new firehall won't be completed before 2023.
Mulrooney is also concerned about the timing of the land acquisition, given that since 2019 the Municipality of Chester has been conducting a review of all fire stations in the area, including the one in the village.
"It makes no sense," said Mulrooney. "Why is this study being ignored?"
But the municipality's warden does not believe the new location for the village firehall will impact the assessment.
"It's so close to where the firehall is now that it's insignificant," said Alan Webber. "In terms of responding outside of the village core it may even have a positive impact."
The assessment is still in a draft form, is under review by a steering committee and has not yet been presented to the public.
MORE TOP STORIES