Adin Fire District Explains Proposal to Sell Volunteer Fire Dept. Building

A crowd of at least 40 people seated in chairs at a public meeting.

Judy Monroe speaks to the board.

Hazel Hiatt in pink to her left.
March 20, 2006, Adin Fire Hall
Copyright 2005

Passions were high, rumors abounded and the hall was filled, as the Fire District explained why they are proposing to sell the historic building used as their headquarters. Steve Gagnon, chairman, was expecting concerned public comment and asked that the meeting be held in a professional way. He asked that everyone limit their comments to 5 minutes and advised that everyone would be given an opportunity to speak. Speak they did, and the meeting drew 42 people from the town of Adin.

Why the community concern, why the great public interest? Some history first.

According to Hazel Hiatt, the building used by the fire hall as their offices was built years ago, before 1950, as a community effort using local volunteer labor and locally milled lumber which was donated. Hazel was the person who signed the agreement to sell for $1 under the conditions that it would never be anything but a community hall. It was donated subject to the agreement that it would forever remain a community building. Hazel was then president of the 20th Century Ladies Club who then owned it. This was in the days when a handshake was good enough for an agreement. It is not known if any official document or contract exists to this effect. Nevertheless, the feeling of the townspeople was, and still is, that the hall belonged to the community. Adin is a community with great pride and spirit which goes back generations. Families who were instrumental in getting the hall built are still living in the area and still have a great sense of ownership. When it was learned that the Fire District was planning to sell the building, people felt betrayed and began to worry.

The Fire District houses it's engines in 2 old buildings, one much older than the other. Both are deteriorating. These buildings are nearby, but separate to the fire hall which is an office space for the district. It is also used for occasional public events. 

Maintainance costs for the engine houses are rising. One building was rewired by volunteer labor and it is becoming obvious that new shelters must found. Fire engines are vulnerable to freezing weather. The problem is, there is no money and the district began to investigate the sale of the fire hall as a source of funds for the new shelters. Unfortunately, negotiations were not made public enough for locals to know about this.  There was no attempt made by the Fire district to keep it secret, but it was not made public enough. This public meeting was called by the Fire District itself because of rising concerns.

The turnout at this meeting was quite large for a small community. Feelings were high but, perhaps because of the request from Steve Gagnon to keep everything

"professional" or perhaps because the locals have good sense and have no "hotheads" it went surprisingly cool with good dialog between the two sides. Much passion was spent in discussing how the hall was built and how such "ownership" was felt. The district explained their position in actually needing new buildings to continue protection and citizens discussed productive ways of solving the problem. It was understood that the realities of department needs may make it necessary to give up nostalgia and move on. 

Darin Meyers of the fire district spoke "... making me torn between the  reality of progress and the nostalgia of staying where we were.  It's a very hard decision, where do we go? I am very nostalgic about this building, but nostalgia gets us nowhere. If our forfathers had been held to their fatherland, we'd all be across the ocean. I don't know, progress is a hard thing. It doesn't come easy, it doesn't come without risk, without sacrifice, and our expense. It's a hard decision, and like I said, the decision has not been made, it may not be made for a while, it may never be made. We don't know where we're going, so we turn to you people to find out.  What do you think, what are your ideas?"

One question explored was "Why no fund raising" for the fire department as was in the "old days". Someone brought out that when a Woman's Fire Auxialliary was in place, they were made to feel unwelcome and were told that they were not needed since the Fire District was "mens work". Paul Lemke, the new Fire Chief. explained that that may have been the case, but times have changed. Several fire fighters on the force are now women and an auxiallary would be welcomed. 

Another question asked was "How come very little public use of the building has taken place?" The answer was that some time in the past, during a public event, some alcohol was stolen from the building and the old chief decided not to rent the building any more.  Again Mr. Lemke explained that that there no longer is alcohol in the building and that a fire hall is not the place for it anyway. He expressed his openness to making the hall available for public use as was the original intention.

I as a reporter for this meeting was impressed with the large turnout of citizens and the calmness with which the meeting progressed. Not one person in the audience raised their voices despite the admitted strong feelings. Long misunderstandings were cleared up and positive suggestions were made as to how funds could be raised for the fire district and how the beloved community hall could be saved.

5 members of the Adin Fire District at the meeting table.

Left to Right:

Paul Lemke, Fire Chief
Steve Gagnon, Chair person
Daran Myers, Adin Fire District
Lynn Mello, Adin Fire District
Tony Richno, Asst. Fire Chief