By Kevin Redding
Sound the alarms. On Saturday, June 4, Setauket Fire District officials broke ground on the community-approved New Era construction project, which aims to renovate and expand the current firehouse to provide safer, more efficient and “greener” emergency services. For more than a decade, the $14.9 million project had been through its fair share of planning and proposals, and after a long community effort to get it approved, a bond vote in June 2014 finally sealed the deal.
With construction finally starting, District Manager David Sterne, along with members of the Setauket Fire District and elected representatives, commemorated the slow but worthwhile journey toward the refurbished firehouse.
According to Sterne, the primary issue with the firehouse that’s being replaced is that it was built in 1935 and doesn’t meet the needs for today’s fire services, both in size and safety.
For example, today’s modern fire trucks are bigger due to safety necessities, like closed cabs and seat belts and so the project will provide properly sized apparatus bays for new trucks, as opposed to custom ordering the trucks to fit the smaller firehouse. Along with equipment upgrades and storage space, the firehouse also plans to install a partial green roof, a high-efficiency heating system, and solar methods for energy capture.
“We have turned this into what we feel is a responsible and efficient project that will help us meet the needs for today and the next 50 to 75 years,” Sterne said. “Knowing the dedication of the men and women who volunteer their time to serve the community, to have the community come out and support this project was a reaffirmation of all the hard work that we do. We felt good in continuing to serve.”
With the sun beating down on a small gathering behind the firehouse, backhoes parked and surrounded by dirt hills, the ceremony was brief and to the point.
Among the speakers were Chairman Paul Paglia, Supervisor Ed Romaine (R), Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) and Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D- Port Jefferson Station).
Speaking first, Paglia said that this building not only symbolizes a renewed commitment to the community, but also underlines the community’s decision to invest in the future of the fire department. It’s a major endeavor, he said, but one that will give the town a sense of pride for what will come of it.
Romaine expressed his immense pride for the men and women who serve the department, and men and women who guide the district.
Englebright brought his attention to the design plans.
“Your planning has just been exemplary,” he said, facing the fire district officials. “The result is a design that is compatible with the historic neighborhood. We are in the core area of the town of Brookhaven historic district in Setauket and there was every chance on a project of this scale that we could lose our sense of place. But that is not being lost. It is being preserved. I think that the community will be very grateful when they see this rise out of the sand and still look familiar, while serving their needs to protect life and property as never before.”
At the end of the ceremony, the officials and representatives posed in hard hats and dug shovels into the dirt. Even though this will be an 18 to 24 month project, the completion of over a decade’s worth of work is in sight.
“A couple of years from now,” said Sterne, “we’ll be holding those giant scissors and having a big ribbon cutting [ceremony].”