PLAINFIELD — A man who makes steeples for a living has offered to tear down the historic, rundown fire station and build a replica in its place that would be a residence and sit 8-feet higher than the current building.
The former fire station sits on Route 2 and was built in 1914. It had been used as a place to store historical items for the Plainfield Historical Society for the past few decades. But the building has fallen into disrepair with a leaking roof and a knee wall pushing out toward the Winooski River.
There has been a renewed effort to do something about the town-owned building after Fire Chief Greg Light told the Select Board this past spring he didn’t think the building would last another winter.
Some residents have said they want the building restored, but they have not been able to find anyone willing to pay tens of thousands of dollars to do so. The town has received a couple of offers from those looking to buy the property, but none have reached the finish line.
Jay Southgate is the latest to thrown his hat into the ring and offered to buy the property and turn it into a home. Southgate, who owns and operates Southgate Steeplejacks, gave the Select Board a presentation laying out his offer at a special meeting Wednesday night at the Recreation Field.
He brought with him a rough, wooden model of the fire station to show what he planned to do.
Southgate said he’d “like to make a buck” by turning the building into a home, but that’s not all he cares about.
“One of my other objectives is to turn around the blight that currently exists on Route 2,” he said.
Southgate said you don’t remove that blight by throwing a coat of paint onto a building no one wants to use. He said you do that by bringing in people who want to be there.
He said he had lived in Plainfield for a number of years and cares about the town.
His plan is to demolish the building and replace it with a replica of how the building used to look.
Southgate said he wants the building to be affordable housing. But he said the current building is too small for a dwelling. He said he wants to add another floor between the concrete basement and the building itself which would make the finished product about 8-feet taller than the current building.
The doors that currently function as the front doors would either be display only and function as windows on the second floor, or, Southgate said, he might install a small balcony looking over Route 2. He said his replica will have a dormer on the back along with windows so those who live in the building can enjoy the river that runs behind it. The current building has no such dormer.
He said he will also install a lift into the building to make it accessible to anyone with a disability.
All three Select Board members said they were in favor of the proposal. Board member Sasha Thayer offered to sell the property to Southgate for $1 as quickly as the town can because she said it is a liability to the town.
Southgate said he would draw up a design for the building, now that he knows the board supports the project. If the board approves the design, Board Chair Jim Volz said the board will move forward with the sale.
The town is then obligated under state law to post the proposed sale of municipal land for 30 days. If a petition signed by 5% of the town’s legal voters is submitted objecting to the sale within that 30 days, the municipality will have to hold a special meeting for a town-wide vote.
Southgate said he will need to take ownership of the property by October or he will have to walk away. He said he needs to line up his winter work and can’t wait around to see if he will get the property or not.