The St. John Valley town of Sinclair could soon replace its 80-year-old fire station if more than $2 million in federal funding comes through.
The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday approved $2.25 million in funds for North Lakes Fire & Rescue to build the new station. North Lakes operates three all-volunteer fire stations in northern Aroostook County.
Though it’s not a done deal yet, Aroostook Emergency Management Agency Director Darren Woods is hopeful. The town’s fire station was built in the 1940s and lacks updated electrical wiring, handicapped accessibility and hot water for cleaning. The existing truck bay fits a modern vehicle with only inches to spare, according to Woods.
“Those are just some of the problems, and where we are right now we’re too near the lake to add additions or a backup generator,” he said.
U.S. Sen. Susan M. Collins, vice chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, announced she had secured the funding as part of nearly $14 million for Maine fire department projects. Having passed the Appropriations committee, the funding bill must face votes and possible amendments by both the House and Senate, which typically happens later in the summer or fall.
North Lakes’ largest station is in Madawaska Lake, and it also operates a site in Cross Lake. Its 42 firefighters are all paid volunteers, with Woods serving as chief.
North Lakes applied for this round of federal funding. It’s good to have passed the first hurdle, but there’s a way to go before it’s approved, Woods said.
Preliminary planning for a new station in Sinclair was already in the works, but federal money would make it happen faster.
Aroostook Emergency Management has purchased the land in Sinclair, which is near the existing station. Ground surveyors have started work.
“We’ve known for over 20 years that we needed a new station there,” Woods said. “We’ve tried to do the best we can with what we had, to live within our means.”
If the federal package falls through, Plan B will be to do the work over several years, he said.