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Jun 5, 2013 1:14 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Voters Approve New Westhampton Beach Firehouse

Jun 5, 2013 1:41 PM

Voters, by a nearly two-to-one margin on Tuesday, approved the demolition of the Westhampton Beach firehouse and a plan to replace it with a new $15.7 million facility.

Fire district commissioners and others who were eagerly awaiting the counting of the ballots at the Sunset Avenue firehouse applauded when the final tally was announced at around 9:20 p.m. The measure was approved 286-156, according to fire district officials.

A total of 442 residents—or approximately 10 percent of the estimated 4,000 registered voters in the Westhampton Beach Fire District—cast ballots on Tuesday. The district encompasses Westhampton Beach, Westhampton and Quiogue.

“I’m glad it finally happened,” Fire Commissioner Fred Overton said.

He added that the next step is for the architects to begin drawing up the plans for the new firehouse, which will be double the size of the current one, though he added that he does not expect construction to begin until next spring.

District officials also have not yet decided on a location for a temporary headquarters while the new facility is being built, a process that is expected to take approximately 18 months.

The current 12,300-square-foot firehouse dates back 59 years, and commissioners have said the building does not provide enough space to store the district’s trucks and emergency vehicles. There are cracks in the concrete floors, they said, and the facility lacks a proper ventilation system, creating potentially hazardous conditions for volunteers.

The approved plans call for the construction of a 27,000-square-foot, two-story facility at the site of the current firehouse, the cost of which would be covered by a 20-year bond. The new building would feature a total of 11 bays with a clearance height of 14 feet, enough space to house the entire fleet of emergency response vehicles, as well as a basement to make space for the department’s 110 volunteers. The department’s computers, as well as its alarm tower and telephone systems, will also be upgraded.

Officials said they expect the project to raise the fire district tax rate from 32 cents to 47 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation. A resident whose home is assessed at $600,000 can expect to pay about $282 in fire district taxes each year, or $90 more than they do now.

Fire Department Chief John “Chip” Bancroft said he was pleased with the result, adding that he is looking forward to using the new structure once it is completed.

“I can’t say enough for the effort that they put forward and the due diligence that they did,” he said, thanking the fire commissioners. “It had to be done.”

District officials said they opted to have residents vote the old-fashioned way—with paper ballots—rather than using the Suffolk County Board of Elections voting machines, because it saved them money. Instead, the district hired three individuals, Irene Barrow, Katey Moran and Tom Betjemann, who are certified by the Suffolk County Board of Elections, to tally the ballots at the firehouse shortly after 9 p.m. Tuesday.

“These guys are great. They do one heck of a job,” Joel Stolowitz, a Westhampton resident, said of the firefighters after voting in favor of the proposal on Tuesday. “They are hard workers and they are very dedicated.”

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My question is- when I voted earlier it appears to be a yes or no placed in a box. Whos counting the votes? Will anyone- impartial- be present to verify votes when counted? Why were machines not used? Can the Press be present?
By realistic (472), westhampton on Jun 4, 13 4:15 PM
Who is counting the votes ?? Who is over seeing the count and WHY didn't they use the voting machine?? I would like the answers....
By tookatz (83), westhampton beach on Jun 4, 13 9:22 PM
If it passes or not I would like the answers to these questions!!
By tookatz (83), westhampton beach on Jun 4, 13 9:23 PM
Who do you think is counting the votes? I guarantee it passes. Only a volunteer fire dept with no oversight can conduct a sham vote like this. They probably use the same voting system for other important votes, like which resort destination to hold annual training on your dime. 125 special districts on Long Island and each one is sucking away at your wallet and no one is minding the store
By CaptainSig (716), Dutch Harbor on Jun 5, 13 6:23 AM
Yes/No placed in a box? Is that a joke?
By ba (50), speonk on Jun 5, 13 9:35 AM
Hey 27 east get to the bottom of this. we want answers!!
How many voted yes and how many voted no?
Sounds like this is a BS vote ,
just about everyone I talked to voted no. unless they were in the FD.
By tookatz (83), westhampton beach on Jun 5, 13 12:43 PM
Well the vote is over and the result in, I am glad for the firefighters of our community. I know that the Commissioners did a good job of putting the plan out (even if some people kept their heads in the sand until the last minute). Now, if I may for a moment address CaptainSig's comment: While some fire departments have obviously treated the taxpayers funds inappropriately, Westhampton's Department has not done this. They get audited annually, both the District and the Department and have had ...more
By Just Sayin' (7), Southampton on Jun 5, 13 3:17 PM
Thanks Just Sayin, I was wondering how the count worked as well. Between the photos above and your comments, it seems to be a pretty straight forward process. Do you know when the new building will be completed?
By WHB Guy (1), Westhampton Beach on Jun 5, 13 8:17 PM
A 15 million dollar firehouse are you kidding me? Bythe way you're fire taxes are going up 50 percent in one year! Therere are fire houses in new york city that are over 50 years old still in operation. I'm all for helping volunteers with additional benefits, but spending 600 dollars a square foot for a garage is insane!
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Jun 5, 13 9:34 PM
2 members liked this comment
442 voted out of 4000 eligible voters in the town. I m guessing many people didn't know there was an election. 286 voted yes- How many members in the dept? Add in their spouses and theres your victory. Get the shovels , another Fire Palace going up!!
By CaptainSig (716), Dutch Harbor on Jun 6, 13 6:51 AM
Newday reported the Construction Manager- Sandpebble- is making over $600,000 for their services and that process didnt need to be bid out because its a service. If they will be awarding sub contracts to the constuction companies how much more- if any- will they be making by running the contracts through their organization if thats the process they will be taking? Seems all hush hush to me. Why cant the fire department post their contract for review?
By realistic (472), westhampton on Jun 6, 13 8:14 AM
600k is nothing wait till the engineer, architect, and every other consultant gets done over at the new firehouse. This firehouse is an ego thing ask a NYC fireman if they have anything remotely like this. Its a joke and its on the taxpayer.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Jun 6, 13 10:41 AM
1 member liked this comment
they wont publish the contracts or plans because they dont want anyone to know what ridiculous expenses are involved , I would like to know the amount allocated for the kitchen, gym, large screen TV and other non- firefighting related items.
But try asking for this info- they get angry and insulted and act like the public has no right to question how its tax dollars are spent
By CaptainSig (716), Dutch Harbor on Jun 7, 13 6:35 AM
1 member liked this comment
In 2002, the Westhampton Beach Fire Department consolidated with its protection areas of Westhampton Beach, Westhampton, Quiogue and the Westhampton Dunes in a process that fire district officials call "friendly" and "amicable."

According to those in Westhampton Beach, consolidation would put an end to these practices. "Everyone wanted a voice," offered Carol Nemeth, secretary-treasurer for the Westhampton Beach Fire District. "A big selling point was that everyone would have an equal ...more
By Publius (358), Westhampton Beach on Jun 6, 13 10:33 AM
I don't live in the village, yet I was well aware, months ago of these plans. I saw it discussed here and on other blogs.
The fire district did presentations to the village board, civic groups and at the headquarters. They went beyond the requirements of the law.
To claim that "people didn't know" or that there was anything being hidden is disingenuous at best.
To attempt to claim that there was some underhandedness occurring by the nature of the vote is ignorant.
It's June, if ...more
By But I'm a blank! (1283), Hampton Bays on Jun 7, 13 1:35 PM
Well said "But I'm a blank!. I was debating internally whether or not to address the ignorant rants. I myself did attend the public meetings of which I believe the largest "crowd" was three. I saw that the proposal was on the front page of the local newspaper twice and you are correct that the Commissioners did visit many of the civic groups. Also, all the information was posted on the District's website as well as their phone number in case anyone had any questions. A unique note here also ...more
By Just Sayin' (7), Southampton on Jun 7, 13 6:15 PM
Ah another firefighter comes out of the woodwork to defend the newest fire palace. Thank you for addressing some mandated items which go into the construction of a firehouse; now could you actually adress what I commented on? I'll repeat it for you : Is a commercial restruant (sp) grade kitchen, fully equipped gym, large screen TV , offices for each chief, etc-- are these necessary? Are they affordable in these ecomomic times? Please discuss the need for these items as I watch my taxes go up ...more
By CaptainSig (716), Dutch Harbor on Jun 8, 13 6:12 AM
Well, Sig, how many of these public hearings did you go to? Did you make your feelings known?
If you think you have any impact on anything by whining about it here, you would be wrong.
Do you realize that many of the design requirements are there by OSHA requirements?
Just how much time do you volunteer in service to your community?
I have absolutely no issues with the FD building a commercial grade kitchen, nor a gym.
By But I'm a blank! (1283), Hampton Bays on Jun 10, 13 10:07 AM
Does OSHA require a $5,000 stove? My point is that many of the special districts (there are 125 on Long Island) which all take a piece of our prop tax money seem to feel they can spend this money on whatever they want with no taxpayer imput or oversight.
In my hamlet I pay tax to 8 special districts- and all of them go up every year. Where I can I have reviewed the budgets of these districts and I have found no evidence of fiscal constraint. Every year there is an increase and some of the ...more
By CaptainSig (716), Dutch Harbor on Jun 11, 13 5:57 AM
1 member liked this comment
The story is about Westhampton Beach, not the 125 other special taxing districts. My point was that the FD went above and beyond in telling the public about this. Looking at budgets on line and whining about it here does you or anybody else, no good. If you live in the district you should have gone to the hearings and made it an issue.
When I was speaking of OSHA requirements it obviously was about the building requirements, and not the kitchen. But in all candor, $5,000.00 for a commercial ...more
By But I'm a blank! (1283), Hampton Bays on Jun 11, 13 9:28 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By Just Sayin' (7), Southampton on Jun 7, 13 6:15 PM
It's a volunteer firehouse not a full time live in so a commecial kitchen, if true seems excessive. Frankly a firehouse is a glorified garage. I'd be hard pressed to understand how they get to $15M. This would probably make it one of the most expensive buildings in all of WHB. What did the WHB CC's new clubhouse cost?
By Hambone (514), New York on Jun 19, 13 8:23 AM
Sorry I haven't posted but I have been away. I did some research on this with the Westhampton Beach Fire Department, the commercial stove is utilized when members and some of their family are there for standbys, such as Sandy and NEMO. Members, like yourselves, will not be able to help community unless their family is safe. In some cases, like last years hurricane, these members spent three or four days straight at the department answering calls of distress. Now, a firehouse is not a glorified ...more
By Just Sayin' (7), Southampton on Jun 19, 13 10:04 AM