NEWPORT — The city drafted new zoning bylaws to accommodate the proposed AnC Bio plant. The adjustments were related to height restrictions for buildings in a light industrial zone. This required Fire Chief Jamie LeClair to meet with developers and assess the situation. His decision is that the city needs five high-rise packs in order to respond if a fire ever broke out at the plant.
“When you have a high-rise structure, the state mandates that they put in a standpipe, which is a pipe that goes on each floor that the fire department can hook into with their hoses to have access to water,” Fire Chief Jamie LeClair said on Wednesday. “These high-rise packs have all the equipment to hook into the standpipes to fight the fire, as opposed to stretching a bunch of hose from the outside, all the way up four or five floors.”
On Monday night, in order to make sure that the AnC Bio project does not come across any hang-ups, the city council voted to fund the new equipment in next year’s budget. The equipment is estimated to cost $19,600.
City Manager John Ward’s reasoning was that even with tax breaks given to AnC Bio, the city would collect more in property tax than the price of the new equipment. With the AnC Bio plant appraised at $30 million, even with a 90 percent tax break, the city would receive $34,791 in tax payments.
LeClair said that the new equipment could be used to fight a fire anywhere that has standpipes built into the structure, noting that North Country Hospital is one such building, however, he stated that they are not necessarily in use at the hospital.
He also noted that maintaining the standpipes is often costly, but that it is entirely up to the property owner, and is not a cost that would fall on taxpayers in the future.
The other options to pay for the equipment would have been to seek impact fees from the developer, in this case Bill Stenger and his partners, or else search for grants.