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Dexter, fire district in talks over village building to keep volunteer department

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DEXTER — The village wants to sell the municipal building it has outgrown at 100 Locke St. to the Brownville Joint Fire District to let the Dexter Volunteer Fire Department stay there, but the parties have yet to agree on a purchase price.

The village has the building listed for sale at $350,000, and plans to use the proceeds to build its new offices on a village-owned site on Liberty Street. Village officials hope to break ground next year.

The Fire Department, part of a district that includes the Brownville and Pillar Point volunteer companies, leases five truck bays at the building from the village for $1 a year; it pays for its own utilities.

The seven-member district commission submitted its second purchase offer this week to the village after the village Board of Trustees rejected its initial bid of $187,000 in March.

Dexter Mayor James R. Eves, who did not disclose the price of the new offer, said he is optimistic a deal will be reached, although he said the village cannot sell the building for well below its assessed value of $538,000.

“We think the best option would be to sell the office to the fire district, but we’re still in negotiations and haven’t come up with a price,” he said. After its first offer was rejected, “the fire district started looking at land around here to buy, but they realized it would be far more expensive to build something than buy the municipal building.”

If the village can’t negotiate a deal with the district, he said, the board probably will postpone the village office project. The board does not wish to sell the building to an outside party, Mr. Eves said.

“If you’re going to sell property that taxpayers own, you have to get a fair market value for it,” Mr. Eves said. “Everyone on the board agrees. But this is a small-town community, and we need the fire department here.”

The 30-member Fire Department, for its part, doesn’t want to leave, either, and would prefer to continue leasing the space, district Chairman William K. Archer said.

“We don’t really want to be a property owner, to be perfectly blunt,” Mr. Archer said. “The department has been there since day one. We use the bays to house the trucks and equipment to provide fire protection for the village of Dexter.”

The 8,500-square-foot building, built in the late 1960s, is being marketed and sold for the village by Bayview Shores Realty, Dexter. The village’s planned 3,500-square-foot building, to be built near West Bradley and Liberty streets, will cost in the range of $500,000 to $600,000, Mr. Eves said. Designed by Fourth Coast Inc. of Clayton, the building will include four offices, an archive room, a multipurpose room and a basement. Parking spaces will be in the front, side and back.

Mr. Archer said the Brownville fire district is still investigating other locations for the Dexter department, in case it doesn’t buy the building. The village firetrucks could possibly be housed at the Pillar Point department, he said.

If the district buys the building, he said, it plans to keep the community room available to residents. It is now used by church, music and Scouting groups.

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