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Dec 7, 2012 6:01 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Fire District Seeks Approval For North Sea Firehouse

Dec 12, 2012 10:53 AM

The Southampton Fire District is getting its “ducks in a row” for a new firehouse it could build if the district were to eventually take control of the Southampton Fire Department—a contentious idea that has been floated for several years, according to Fire District Board of Commissioners Chairman David Price.

The district, represented by attorney William Glass, took a step in that direction last Thursday, December 6, by submitting plans to the Southampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals to secure approval to build a full-fledged firehouse—not a substation—on a vacant parcel it purchased in North Sea several years ago.

The district’s leaders said this week they have no immediate plans to actually build the firehouse but want the plans approved in case they need to push forward if there were a break with the village.

Mr. Price said the goal is to have the project approved and shovel ready in the event that efforts to absorb the department move forward.

“A lot more ducks need to be lined up before we build,” he said, noting that he hopes the discussion about unifying the district with the department will be put back on the table. “I still believe for most of my whole 30-some years in the department that it would be best consolidated.”

The application comes after years of acrimony between the Southampton Fire Department, which is operated by Southampton Village, and the fire district, which contracts with the village to provide fire protection to Water Mill, Tuckahoe, Shinnecock Hills and the Shinnecock Indian Reservation.

Fire district commissioners for years have unsuccessfully tried to wrest control of the department from the village, which owns the department. Village officials have remained adamantly opposed to giving up the department.

“So you’re actually getting the ball rolling for yourselves in a sense?” ZBA member Keith Tuthill asked at last week’s meeting.

“In a worst-case scenario—let me preface it by saying that—there would be a separate department,” replied Mr. Price. “This is for a long-term goal of a unified or consolidated department or district use.”

The district, which bought the property at 401 North Sea Road for about $1.7 million in 2009 with the intention of eventually building a firehouse, is seeking from the ZBA a special type of hearing, focused on a “balancing of the public interests,” in the hope that the ZBA would exempt the district from zoning regulations. If the district is unsuccessful in the petition, it would have to seek a variance to allow for a 60-foot-tall tower and a 44-foot-tall building, exceeding the 32-foot-tall building limit under current zoning.

The ZBA took no immediate action on Thursday and is expected to further discuss the application in January.

ZBA Vice Chairman Adam Grossman said the board doesn’t typically see these types of applications. “In my 10 years on the Zoning Board of Appeals, we’ve never had this kind of a hearing,” he said, adding that the board has not had a fire district application before it either.

If the district were to consolidate with the department, the Southampton Village Board would lose its control of the department. The current district’s board of fire commissioners would be dissolved, and a new board would be elected to oversee the district.

The idea of passing control to the Southampton Fire District has gotten many fire department members up in arms in recent years.

In 2009, the fire district funded a study that analyzed the cost-effectiveness of fire protection in the area. The Village Board declined to co-sponsor the study because fire department leaders were adamantly opposed to consolidating with the district. And in 2010, some commissioners blamed the village for stalling in providing necessary information to complete the study, which came back suggesting that the agencies, including the North Sea Fire District, merge under a single fire district.

Southampton Village Board Member and Village Fire Commissioner Richard Yastrzemski said that the conversation about the village relinquishing control to the district hasn’t been successfully resolved for more than 20 years. Many firefighters have the outlook of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” he said.

“It brings up some very tough memories for these guys,” he added. “When the word ‘joining’ is used, it becomes a political battle. The fire department is not here to be a political puppet. We do a valuable service and just want to do it, given we have the equipment and housing to do it.”

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Maybe that is a better location for a Stop and Shop?
By V.Tomanoku (790), southampton on Dec 7, 12 9:58 PM
1 member liked this comment
A better site for both would be the lot next to Burger King.
By No of Hwy (9), Southampton on Dec 7, 12 11:28 PM
Does anyone out there really think a fire station on the major highway is a good idea?
By summertime (589), summerfield fl on Dec 8, 12 11:46 AM
The first time I did not see the map. The old building there, once was Canada Dry ... It is a good place for a Fire House lots of land to cover in that corner of the district.
By summertime (589), summerfield fl on Dec 18, 12 3:21 PM
Nowhere in the article did anyone spell out why this was really needed. I seem to remember a new firehouse was just built on Hampton Road. Sounds to me like someone wants a base to take things over here.
By Sandflea (35), Southampton on Dec 8, 12 1:55 PM
Why is Southampton building a new firehouse in North Sea?
By Local dad (51), North Sea on Dec 8, 12 4:37 PM
No disrepect to the Commissioners for the District (if it exists, somebody has to run it), but the Fire District is the epitomy of government waste. It was pitched to the Town Board as a cost-saving measure and of course the Board is always willing to delegate work so they don't have to do it themselves. Referencing an August 29, 2009 27east article, the total protection budget (Village and Town) was 2.2M, of which the Town was responsible for 40%, or $880k. This was a cost saving of $13k negotiated ...more
By diy_guy (101), Southampton on Dec 9, 12 8:18 AM
1 member liked this comment
Man diy...guy You do not know the history of the village, town, or the fire dept. Unless you propose to volunteer your precious time I suggest you stuff your mouth.
By summertime (589), summerfield fl on Dec 18, 12 3:24 PM
We just built a 6 million dollar firehouse in the village and the ambulance wants a 6 million dollar garage. Now we have a multi million dollar garage needed in North Sea which is 4 miles from the new Southampton garage. We also have millions in fire equipment which is in question for it's need. We have 6 story ladder trucks costing millions, and many other pieces that are pure over kill. I'd rather spend money for volunteers and their families for their future retirement. We are throwing money ...more
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Dec 9, 12 9:06 PM
1 member liked this comment
Here we go again- Another Fire Palace going up (I wonder if this one will have a five star kitchen like the rest of them) at taxpayer expence. But don't question why these depts are spending your money like drunken sailors with no oversight- you will be chastized for criticizing our heroic volunteers.

I for one would rather see the firemen get paid for their service rather than the commissioners spending like fools. Has anyone ever been in one of these facilities? The extravagance ...more
By CaptainSig (716), Dutch Harbor on Dec 11, 12 5:56 AM
Sig, if you hate the local fire departments so much, just come out and say it.

By Draggerman (955), Southampton on Dec 11, 12 7:32 AM
I do not hate the FD's- in fact I thank God every morning that there are hundreds of men and women who volunteer their time and put themselves at risk to answer the fire and ambulance calls in this town.
What I am against is wasteful and extravagent spending of taxpayer dollars on buildings, vehicles, travel, "training", etc without any sort of oversight or public scrutiny. Thats what I hate
By CaptainSig (716), Dutch Harbor on Dec 12, 12 5:56 AM
Then get yourself elected to a Commissioners position. Though most of them are firefighters/former firefighters, anyone can run for the positions and effect the changes you may think are needed. Same should hold true for the Ambulance Corps throughout the town. There is a lack of oversight from the general public. It is no ones fault but our own if we have an issue with it.
By But I'm a blank! (1283), Hampton Bays on Dec 12, 12 11:20 AM
Captain Sig Captain of what? Again you critize so when do you propose so sign up volunteer for the fire dept?
All you folks bit....in Is your name on the list willing to help?
By summertime (589), summerfield fl on Dec 18, 12 3:30 PM
Not that it would matter but has anyone thought to find out what the actual members of the department want? The village is easy to work with, commissioners want control for the sake of having control and power. If the system isn't broken, don't try to fix it. The system is most definitely not broken. There is no need at all to even have town fire commissioners. If it werent for them, taxes would be lower. They have brought taxes up over time just to bank enough money for this damn firehouse in a ...more
By BlackLab (40), Southampton on Dec 12, 12 1:12 PM
The system is broke spending is out of control on fire houses and fire equipment.
The fire district is going to force it members off Long Island by contributing to taxes that are spiraling out of control .Between the capital projects at school districts, and fire stations we will soon be broke, and then what?
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Dec 14, 12 12:57 AM
Here's a thought, what if the site is approved by the ZBA and somewhere down the line nothing materializes, can the property be sold off to someone else to build, a big box store 44 feet tall?? Once the precedent is set there ya go.....ZBA should wake up, enoughwith all these Firehouses. Ever notice when theres a house fire theres always multiply agencies at the scene?? All the Departments should be consolidated so we the taxpayers can save $$$$$. HBFD $2 mill +, BHFD another few $$ Mill ,SHFD ...more
By The Squirl (36), Red creek on Dec 12, 12 3:33 PM
Everyone is jumping out to conclusions. If you read the article, the commissioners are only getting site plan approval so that the property can be used for a future firehouse. There is no intension on building a firehouse now. They have been going through this process for a couple years. If they wait until the need is there, it will delay any ability to build right away.

The issue of consolidation can not be done without the public vote. Everyone is getting excited about nothing right ...more
By RKJBS (14), Southampton on Dec 13, 12 11:30 AM
Not to beat a dead mule, but i just looked at my property tax bill and noticed that Im paying TWICE as much to fund the fire district as what Im paying to fund the town; and 30% more for fire than police (who are paid a salary). I would venture to say that there are way more calls for police service than fire.

without having to fund salaries I guess the fire districts have a lot more discretionary funds which they use to fund extravagant purchases for facilities , equipment, travel, ...more
By CaptainSig (716), Dutch Harbor on Dec 15, 12 7:18 AM