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Aug 14, 2012 7:01 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Westhampton Beach Fire District Wants New Firehouse

Aug 15, 2012 12:40 PM

The Westhampton Beach Fire District has reignited discussions about the possibility of constructing a new firehouse for the 110-member volunteer fire department, in an effort to suppress concerns associated with the current district homestead.

Next Wednesday, August 22, the district is holding the first of several public meetings to discuss the proposal—which would include razing the current Sunset Avenue firehouse and erecting a new larger firehouse better suited to the department’s needs—in order to gain community input about the project. After the initial meeting, which is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. in the upstairs meeting room at the firehouse, Carol Nemeth, the Fire District secretary and treasurer, said there are plans to schedule smaller meetings with local civic organizations to address specific concerns.

“For years, there have been issues with the building becoming a little bit outdated,” Ms. Nemeth said this week. “We have a whole list of criteria that will be explained at the meeting as to why the building is outdated and why they started looking into renovations.”

According to Ms. Nemeth, after initially looking at ways to improve the current structure, district officials ultimately made the decision that it would be more cost effective to build a new up-to-code structure. However, she stressed that the district does not know how much the proposed project will cost because officials are still in the design phase and do not want to estimate costs until after all community input can be processed.

“I have no idea about the price until we finalize the needs of the department,” Ms. Nemeth said. “We are asking for input from these meetings on what they perceive is enough to carry us into the next millennium.”

John “Chip” Bancroft, the chief of the Westhampton Beach Fire Department, said this week that he was happy the meetings were moving forward because they will address some major flaws with the current firehouse, which was built in 1953.

The biggest problem, according to Mr. Bancroft, is the size of the building, which is not big enough to store equipment and is barely high enough to fit standard fire trucks. He said that on either side of the three standard trucks the department owns, there is only five to six inches of space when they are parked inside and there have been several close calls when the trucks had to be readjusted while backing them into the station to avoid hitting a wall. He also said that while the top of the truck 
clears the doors, there is 
such little wiggle-room that firefighters can hear the topside antenna hitting the door. If fire trucks get any taller in the future, they would not fit in the station.

“The firehouse was built 60 years ago when the vehicles were smaller,” Mr. Bancroft said. “I’m a traditionalist, I don’t always like to see new things come along, but you hit a point where you sort of have to.”

Other problems Mr. Bancroft mentioned with the building include not having a storage room for scuba equipment, which is a newly required safety regulation, and not having a decontamination area that releases into a separate catch basin for first responders to use after returning from fires where they could be exposed to hazardous materials, also a regulation. Also, the current building 
is not fully handicapped accessible, and a leaking roof 
plagues the department whenever it rains. “These are things that really jump out at you,” he said.

Hank Beck, the chairman of the Citizens Advisory Committee-West, said this week that he is interested to hear the proposal from the department, but noted that because his civic group has not yet been approached about hosting a meeting with the district and has not seen the plans, he declined to comment on the project. He added that he will probably attend the public forum next week.

According to Ms. Nemeth, if approved, demolition and construction would not begin until at least 2014, and the district is still figuring out where the department would operate from during construction. The department, which contains four companies and has three standard trucks, one tower ladder, a heavy rescue truck, a tanker, a brush truck, a utility truck, two vans, a water rescue boat and four chief vehicles, does have a storage unit on Seabreeze Avenue in Westhampton that could hold some of the equipment.

For now, the district is just trying to keep the public informed about their proposal and hear as much feedback as possible, Mr. Bancroft said.

“This is a lifesaving organization and I believe you cannot put a price on a life,” Mr. 
Bancroft said. “They [the fire commissioners] have been working a long time on this. I hope to make sure that people get all the information that they need to make an educated decision.”

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Our TAXES are HIGH enough !! there is nothing wrong with the firehouse. It does not need to be replaced !!!
By tookatz (83), westhampton beach on Aug 21, 12 3:51 PM
pray tell - how much do you pay a year in taxes to the WHBFD?
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Aug 21, 12 4:05 PM
tookatz must have trouble reading-anything built in 1953 is outdated and much too small. The idea that makes the most sense is to build a new structure accross the street where the bowling alley was. An alternative might be to move out to Montauk Hwy in the old Pastor building. The important thing is that something bigger is needed now.
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Aug 21, 12 4:19 PM
1st is the school, 2nd library, 3rd fire dept. 4th police, etc.... stop being jealous over HBFD cuz they have a new sub station thats bigger then WHBFD.. We dont need the taj mahal. eastend68, why is it too small now? I was just in there last week and its actually really big, and nice inside! They don't need the living space, there's nobody there 24 hours a day. 1953...its a brick building! Structurally very sound. And personally I think the bowling alley should be renovated and reopened. I wish ...more
By tookatz (83), westhampton beach on Aug 21, 12 4:33 PM
How much are your FD taxes?
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Aug 21, 12 9:18 PM
tookatz-read the article-too small for the size of the trucks and not enough room for all the equipment. For the job they do the fire dept deserves the biggest and the best. Why shouldn't they be treated as well as the schools, town hall, library, and police dept. BUILD BIG AND BUILD NEW
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Aug 21, 12 7:24 PM
What a waste of our money!!! (Positve comments posted here most likly are Firemen). Everybody, yes all FD's want new buildings, HB got a 2nd one less than a mile away what for?, Southampton got one, Bridgehampton's buying up land for one, Flanders was shut down by the taxpayers for wanting to build a 2nd, The vgillage wants one, most EMS ambulances want new also, what the hell is the matter with them? are we the taxpayers that stupid because were supposed to have the "deep pockets" for them. Get ...more
By The Squirl (36), Red creek on Aug 21, 12 7:54 PM
FYI...ever notice your tax bills folks??? EMS & FD portions are larger than the more important Police. Duh!!!!! This is why were down to 88 officers, while the Vollies are asking for more, get real vollies. I respect what they do BUT, enough is enough appreciate what you have....
By The Squirl (36), Red creek on Aug 21, 12 10:06 PM
Squirrely:

I'm all for constructive critisicm and using taxpayer $$ wisely. I'm not a FD member or EMS member. There are a lot of things to complain about and a lot of legitimate arguments, to make, BUT when you say:

"lets not forget those well stocked alcoholic bars (where they all go get plowed then go fight the fire)"

You're really doing a disservice to yourself (credibility) and to the volunteers that will risk their life to put out a fire that threatens your life ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Aug 22, 12 9:12 AM
My taxes are high enough. But. Those guys are out there as volunteers on the coldest nights putting their lives on the line. And no I am not a fire fighter. Give them a little more then what they need they deserve it and work hard for it. If you want to take something a away from people who do nothing take away the lifetime benefits of the Village Trustees or the over compensated Police Chief who sits In his office all day doing nothing or the school administrators who are over paid or the School ...more
By realistic (470), westhampton on Aug 22, 12 8:48 PM