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Apr 6, 2011 9:07 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Bridgehampton Firehouse Expansion Likely Shelved

Apr 6, 2011 9:07 AM

The Bridgehampton Fire District Board of Commissioners say that plans for a multimillon-dollar expansion of the district’s firehouse are likely going to be shelved while the district re-evaluates the needs of the department and the financial burden it would place on its taxpayers.

Three commissioners said this week that they expect to vote on Wednesday, April 13, to set the plans aside indefinitely so they can be more fully vetted.

“We haven’t made any official decision, but it’s on the back burner at this time,” board Chairman Steve Halsey said Monday.

The plans drawn up by Syracuse architect Dominic LaPierre called for the firehouse to be approximately doubled in size. A second floor would be added to the current building on School Street, making way for more offices for department personnel and classrooms for training seminars.

But what was actually needed for the department’s various officers and divisions was still a subject of considerable debate in recent weeks. Commissioner John Muse said that the board was somewhat surprised at the breadth and depth of the disagreement among the fire department’s members about the future building needs of the department.

A substantial number of firefighters said they thought district money would be better spent on constructing a second firehouse in Wainscott to speed the effective response time of those firefighters who live in the eastern portions of the district.

Members of the department’s busy ambulance company have also made it clear that they need office and training space of their own.

“We need to go back and address these various issues,” Mr. Muse said. “Instead of it taking six months, if it has to take a year or two years so we get what we want, that’s worth it. The last thing we want is to give the members something they don’t want.”

The economics of the project may have been a tough sell to district voters in the near future anyway. With costs estimated by the commissioners at between $8 million and $9 million, to be paid for with a bond that would have to be approved in a districtwide referendum, the tax impact in a still struggling economy may have been more than voters were willing to bear.

“In the current economic climate ... I think other options should be looked into that wouldn’t be such a financial burden on the taxpayers,” Commissioner Jeff Louchheim said. “We can be looking to see if there are other ways we can accommodate some of the needs the expansion was going to address.”

In the long term, Mr. Muse pointed out, a larger and more modern firehouse that uses space more efficiently and includes some of the amenities volunteers want to see is going to be needed. Creature comforts, like offices for department officers and space to host department events and training programs are an important enticement to attract volunteers from the increasingly part-time community, he noted.

“We want guys to aspire to that corner office,” Mr. Muse said. “That’s the future of enticing volunteers. We need guys to walk into that fire department and say they want to donate their time.”

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It seems to make sense. I am glad to see that some commissioner's care for the input of the members as well as taxpayers. Doing a job "well done"!
By Mr.Blue (11), North Sea on Apr 6, 11 9:16 AM
1 member liked this comment
"guys," Mr. Muse? "guys?" Get real - what kind of respect does that show to the women of your Department (current or prospective ones) who show just as much dedication to their male counterparts? Sounds a little sexist to me.
By Uniblab (24), Water Mill on Apr 11, 11 7:24 PM