Governor backs fire school in Beacon Falls

BEACON FALLS — In an effort to block the construction of a fire school in town, officials appealed their case to Gov. Dannel Malloy. They didn’t receive a favorable verdict.

In a letter to First Selectman Susan Cable, Malloy said he was sensitive to concerns expressed by residents about the proposed Valley Fire School to be built in Beacon Falls, but argued the project will ultimately benefit the town.

According to Malloy’s letter, the search for a fire school site started in 2007 and the Beacon Falls site best meets the state’s needs. The state bought 11 acres in the industrial park on Lancaster Drive for the school.

The proposal was meet with concerns and criticism from residents who felt the town will lose out on tax revenue because of the school, and that it would drive business away.

Malloy wrote that, as a former mayor, he understands concerns about the project’s impact on economic development.

“While the state-owned site does not generate the full taxes that a private owned entity would, I believe there is an overall benefit to having this asset in the Town of Beacon Falls and that it will positively impact your town as well as the surrounding towns the school will serve,” Malloy wrote.

He wrote that the project would not pose an environmental threat to the community. He pointed to fire training schools in Hartford and New Havel as examples of state-of-the-art facilities like the one proposed in Beacon Falls.

Malloy wrote that the anticipated traffic volume of the school will be minimal compared to traffic in an industrial park because most activity will occur after work hours and on weekends, and that there should be minimal contact with neighboring businesses during hours of operation.

After reading the letter at last month’s Board of Selectman meeting, Cable said she would continue writing letters to the state in opposition to the fire school.

Resident Ed Groth, who was at the meeting, said the burn school will be an eyesore and keep businesses from coming to Beacon Falls. He said it would be devastating to the town’s tax base.

“There’s no upside to this,” he said.

State Fire Administrator Jeff Morrissette at the Commission on Fire Prevention and Control said the Beacon Falls school is one of four presently in the early design phase.

He said the Department of Construction Services will soon put out a bid for architect services to begin designing the schools.

However, the state currently has funding to build only one, or possibly two of the planned schools, he said.

Morrissette said the Connecticut State Firefighter’s Association Education Committee, which represents a consortium of independent regional fire schools, will vote to decide which of the four schools gets the green light. A representative from the committee could not be reached for comment.

In the meantime, the association will probably lobby state legislators to fund the other schools, which will be located in Beacon Falls, Fairfield, Burrville, and Willimantic.

The earliest any of the schools will break ground is about a year from now, Morrissette said.

“Ultimately, the schools are hopeful that additional bond funds will be made available,” he said.