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May 13, 2009 11:10 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Village and fire district enlisting public relations firm to help sell public on new firehouses

May 13, 2009 11:10 AM

Southampton Village has enlisted a public relations firm to help sell taxpayers on the idea of building a new firehouse for the Southampton Fire Department to replace its aging Hampton Road substation.

Mayor Mark Epley said the village is hammering out a contract with Michael Conte of Syntax Communication in Sayville to run a public education campaign on why the new substation is needed and the impact it will have on taxpayers.

“We’re going to have to go out and meet with a bunch of different organizations. We’re going to do a lot of public relations. We’re going to educate the men so they can sit around the barbecues and talk about the firehouse,” the mayor said at a combined meeting last week of the Village Board, Southampton Fire District Board of Commissioners and Southampton fire chiefs.

The boards and chiefs met on May 6 at the St. Andrews Road firehouse to discuss replacing both the Hampton Road firehouse and the Windmill Lane fire department headquarters. They also discussed ongoing contract negotiations between the village and the district, which are looking at splitting a $2.2 million fire department budget in 2010. Under a tentative verbal agreement, the village would pay 60 percent of the bill and the district would pay the remainder.

The new Hampton Road substation, which Mayor Epley estimated would cost between $4 million and $4.5 million, would replace the existing firehouse there. But instead of replacing the Windmill Lane firehouse with one in the same spot, the district commissioners have proposed building a new headquarters on district property just north of the village on North Sea Road.

It would be the district’s first firehouse and would dramatically change the dynamic of the relationship between the village and the district.

As things stand now, Southampton Fire District—composed of Tuckahoe, Water Mill, Shinnecock Hills and the Shinnecock Indian Reservation—does not have its own fire department or any firehouses. It buys fire protection from Southampton Village, which owns the Southampton Fire Department.

Fire Commissioner David Price suggested that instead of the village holding one bond referendum for Hampton Road and the district holding its own referendum for a North Sea Road firehouse, there should be only one bond, and it should also include paying for renovations to the St. Andrews Road substation. “I would package the whole deal in one and fire it at the taxpayers,” he said.

“Certainly if Hampton Road gets built, but not a new main station on North Sea Road, we won’t be meeting the department’s needs,” Commissioner Fred Andrews said.

Village Board member Paul Robinson warned that the magnitude of such a vote would be more difficult to get past voters than two separate votes, one in the village for the Hampton Road house and one in the district for the North Sea house.

Mr. Price had also advocated the village and the district share ownership of both houses, an idea with little to no support on the village’s end.

“I think, from a legal standpoint, it would be much cleaner if it’s two separate bond votes and two separate ownerships,” Mayor Epley said last Thursday.

Mayor Epley noted that no bond vote will appear on the village’s June ballot, and Mr. Conte said the earliest the village can hope to put a bond in front of voters would be at the end of this summer.

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Great idea! Lets spend millions on totally unnecessary firehouses. I mean, the budget discrepancy is "only" 16 million dollars... Oh wait is it 18 million this week? Or 14? Is anyone even counting

What the hell is wrong with this town and its government? It's just one wasteful story after another... someone do something and stop voting for these idiots
By littleplains (305), olde england on May 11, 09 9:49 PM
First of all, the fire district is separate from the Town. Secondly, they have been taxing you for the past 5(?) years in excess of what they spend and therefore have the money to fund this project. If you want to complain, complain about that.

Secondly, you obviously have no idea about the requirements of the fire service if you think a new firehouse is unnecessary. Where exactly would you like all of your new fire equipment parked? You know, the equipment that protects your property ...more
By diy_guy (101), Southampton on May 21, 09 7:16 AM