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Apr 16, 2013 12:15 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Westhampton Beach Fire District Revises Plan For New Firehouse

Apr 17, 2013 12:37 PM

The Westhampton Beach Fire District has tweaked its plans for a new firehouse on Sunset Avenue, and those modifications will raise the estimated cost of the project by more than $1 million, to almost $15.7 million, fire officials have confirmed.

The revised plan, which still calls for the demolition of the current firehouse and replacing it with a new one more than double in size, now includes a basement, an all-brick facade, the reconstruction of the parking lot and other upgrades.

The additions are expected to bump up the price of the new fire headquarters to almost $15.7 million, up from $14.6 million as originally estimated by district officials.

Fire district taxpayers will be asked to go to the polls on Tuesday, June 4, to approve the project, which officials intend to finance with a 20-year bond. If the $15.7 million plan is approved, it will push up the projected tax rate increase by one cent, from the previously proposed 46 to 47 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation, officials said. The current tax rate is 32 cents per $1,000.

Therefore, taxpayers whose homes are assessed at $600,000 can expect to pay approximately $282 in fire district taxes each year, or $6 more than originally projected, if the work is approved. Currently, those homeowners are now paying about $192 in fire district taxes.

While they acknowledge that their modifications will raise the overall cost of the work, fire district officials said this week they still believe they are pursuing the best option, one that will provide the fire department with a home for the next 100 years.

“The new building is certainly the most efficient way to go down the road for the taxpayers,” said Westhampton Beach Fire District Secretary/Treasurer Carol Nemeth during a meeting on Monday.

According to Victor Canseco, the president of Sandpebble Builders, the Southampton company that is serving as project manager, the addition of the basement for the new firehouse make sense because it adds extra room for the department’s 110 volunteers. He also said flooding is not an issue, noting that there were no problems during Hurricane Sandy in the fall.

In order to provide better drainage for the new facility, the parking lot behind the firehouse also will have to be repaved. The fire district’s computers, including its alarm tower and telephone system, must also be upgraded and the plan is to pay for those items in the proposed bond.

Finally, the proposed brickwork will make the structure safer and have it blend in better with the surrounding neighborhood, according to Mr. Canseco.

“If you are going to spend taxpayer money and you don’t design a 100-year building, you are irresponsible,” he said.

The need for a new firehouse was first presented to the community at a meeting in late August in which fire officials outlined key issues in safety and response, as well as code, maintenance and program deficiencies plaguing the 59-year-old, 12,300-square-foot building.

If approved, the new 27,000-square-foot, two-story building will have enough room for all of the district’s fire trucks. It will feature six bays in the front and five in the back. The doors will have a clearance of roughly 14 feet, more than 2 feet more than the tallest truck. The new facility will also feature an elevator, training classrooms, meeting rooms, office space and designated changing areas for first responders.

Details of the proposal will be discussed at a fire district meeting scheduled for Wednesday, May 22, starting at 7 p.m., at the Sunset Avenue firehouse. District residents in Westhampton Beach, Westhampton and Quiogue will be eligible to vote on the project between 3 and 9 p.m. on June 4 at the fire district office.

If the referendum passes, fire officials expect that it will take roughly 10 months for the actual work to begin, explaining that they must use that time to finalize a temporary headquarters and relocate their vehicles. Officials will most likely operate from their substation on Seabreeze Avenue but are also looking for another place to serve as their temporary headquarters.

The actual construction is expected to take approximately 18 months.

“The need will still be there regardless if the vote goes down,” said Westhampton Beach Fire Commissioner Chairman Fred Overton. “That is the one constant you can’t change. A need is a need.”

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The questions remains- why Sandpebble on all WHB projects? What are they charging.? What's their profit margin on the whole deal? It is a public project so the the disclosure is appropriate.
By realistic (472), westhampton on Apr 19, 13 10:05 PM
One million dollars - that's some "tweak".
By wrk (20), East Quogue on Apr 20, 13 9:06 AM
Realistic and wrk, I invite both of you to contact the Westhampton Beach Fire District office at 288-1896 and pose your questions there. The department has been more than forthcoming with all information regarding this proposed project. There have been several open public informational sessions and there is another one coming. Please come and get informed, all thoughts and ideas are welcomed.
By Just Sayin' (7), Southampton on Apr 26, 13 8:22 PM