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Demolition of the eastern section of the Setauket Fire Department headquarters. Photo by Rita J. Egan

By Rita J. Egan

The headquarters of the Setauket Fire Department continues to transition into a rescue center for the 21st century with its construction project dubbed by the department as “new era.”

David Sterne, district manager, said a new apparatus bay on Old Town Road is now completed and ready to use. The structure connected to the original firehouse on Route 25A can fit modern day trucks, something the 1930s building couldn’t do. The closed cabs of current fire trucks make them much wider than emergency vehicles used in earlier decades. Trucks will also now exit and enter on the Old Town Road side instead of Route 25A. Sterne said the new entranceway has a bigger driveway apron, which provides safer entering and exiting than the old entrance.

“It is a good example of how things can be accomplished when we are all willing to work together.”

— David Sterne

After waiting nearly a decade for a bond approval, a $14.9 million bond was approved in April 2014, and renovations began on the Main Street firehouse June 4, 2016. Sterne said the approval of the bond in 2014 was due to a collaboration of the fire district, fire department, community members and the Three Village Civic Association discussing the needs of both the district and its residents.

“It was a community effort to get this passed,” Sterne said. “It is a good example of how things can be accomplished when we are all willing to work together.”

Robert Reuter, president of the Frank Melville Memorial Foundation, was part of a community advisory committee that included Stony Brook architect John Cunniffe and the late civic leader Bob de Zafra. Reuter said the planning for the new firehouse was “an excellent example of the value in involving the public.” He credited Sterne’s organized process and the cooperation of H2M architectural firm and the fire commissioners for making the committee members input meaningful.

Reuter said the committee advocated for reuse of the existing firehouse on Route 25A, the continuation of brick as the primary building material and landscaping the southeast corner, which will include trees and other plantings.

“It will be good to see that work take shape now that the firehouse is operating with a new garage and work is underway on the original building,” Reuter said.

The apparatus bay also includes a bail-out window for volunteers to practice mandated drills with life rescue ropes. The structure has a break room and a gear room that is separate from the apparatus bay, making it safer for firefighters to dress for a fire. Sterne said previously volunteers would put on their gear in the bay, which posed potential hazards with trucks in the vicinity.

“I think everyone understands the importance of building for the future in a responsible manner.”

— David Sterne

South of the building a spillover parking lot will be available for when a large number of volunteers respond to an emergency, attend a meeting or community members use the facilities.

When the new bay was completed, work began on the 25A side. Sterne said the facade of the western portion of the Main Street building, the original 1935 structure, will remain the same, and there will be bunkrooms for both male and female firefighters. The eastern section of the old building will be replaced with a two-story structure that includes offices, meeting and training rooms.

With the future in mind, Sterne said the construction fits the needs of the fire district while being environmentally friendly. Solar panels will be used for hot water, a white high-efficiency roof is included in the apparatus bay, and there will a high-efficiency cooling system.

“I think everyone understands the importance of building for the future in a responsible manner,” Sterne said. “We felt that it is important to have an efficient building … efficient in the sense of being environmentally responsible, as well as a more cost-effective, fiscally efficient building to operate. Building a building that will be kinder to the environment for years to come and costs less tax dollars to operate was imperative to us … the whole community.”

Sterne said the goal is for the firehouse to be completed by November 2018, and the fire district plans to commemorate the completion of the project with a ribbon cutting ceremony and community celebration.

Plans for the new Rocky Point firehouse on King Road. Ground is scheduled to be broken in June. Rendering from Michael Russo/Hawkins Webb Jaeger

With an extra push from the town, Rocky Point Fire District is setting its sights on early June to begin construction of a more durable and up-to-date firehouse in the footprint of its existing one at 90 King Road. The $8.5 million project, approved by the public in a vote in August 2017, also includes the acquisition of a new aerial ladder truck.

During the Jan. 25 Town of Brookhaven board meeting, council members voted to waive the project’s site plan requirements and building fees, turning an administrative review over to its Department of Planning, Environment and Land Management instead of outside engineers. This reduces the overall cost to taxpayers and speeds up the “shovel in the ground” process, according to fire district officials.

“Every little bit helps,” said Rocky Point Fire District Vice Chairman Kirk Johnson, who was unable to provide the exact costs the fire district would be saving at this time. “It’s not astronomical, but there are significant costs, and those things add up.”

“The fire district is very fiscally conservative, but the first responders don’t have room, they respond to an enormous amount of calls and the building isn’t very energy-efficient. This needs to be done.”

— Jane Bonner

Fire district officials have been working alongside architect group Hawkins Webb Jaeger since last year to fine-tune the design of the new firehouse — which the project’s architect said will be made of natural stone as opposed to brick; consist of pitched roofs and a hidden flat roof for storage of mechanical equipment; and include a spacious meeting room as well as a “ready room” for responders, who currently have to put on their gear in the way of incoming and outgoing fire trucks.

The building will also be up to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards, the most widely used green building rating system in the world; include energy-efficient LED lights; and be equipped with better, more cost-efficient heating and cooling systems.

It was designed to have a “more residential feel” than the existing, decades-old building, according to Michael Russo, an associate architect at Hawkins Webb Jaeger.

“We felt this would be the bookend to the north end of the Rocky Point business district and something that works well for the edge of a residential community and the end of a North Shore downtown center,” Russo said.

Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) spoke of the benefits of the new design.

“It’s a very modest firehouse, very traditional looking, and it will blend in nicely in the community and downtown,” she said. “The fire district is very fiscally conservative, but the first responders don’t have room, they respond to an enormous amount of calls and the building isn’t very energy-efficient. This needs to be done.”

Russo and Johnson said upon breaking ground in June, they hope to complete construction of the new building’s apparatus bay by winter, so the fire vehicles can be stored and protected against freezing temperatures. During construction, fire district personnel will work out of portable trailers and possibly garages being offered up by community members.

Johnson said he estimates the project will take up to a year to complete. The fire district will be going out to bid for contractors in the coming months.

A rendering of what the front of the proposed new St. James firehouse would look like. Image from St. James Fire District

Residents within the St. James Fire District voted “no” Sept. 19 to tearing down the Jefferson Avenue firehouse and replacing it with a bigger and better one.

The $12.25 million capital bond proposal sought to knock down the existing 7,404-square-foot firehouse on Jefferson Avenue and build an updated 22,458-square-foot structure in its footprint. The proposal was rejected by voters, with 775 “no” votes and 459 “yes” votes.

The concept of the new firehouse — which would have been more than three times as large as the current building — served to accommodate for modern requirements of firefighters while also taking care of renovations and repairs within the pre-existing infrastructure, which sustained significant damage in an August 2016 storm.

The estimated cost of the proposed facility would have made for an approximate increase of $118 to $198 a year for taxpayers based on their home’s assessed value.

“On behalf of the entire St. James Fire District, we would like to thank those community members who came out to vote today in our bond election,” the district’s board of commissioners said in a statement. “We are disappointed that the proposal was defeated. … As commissioners, we will now regroup and begin discussions of what our next steps might be. We will continue to keep the community informed throughout the process. As always, we will continue to respond to all emergencies in the quickest manner possible, as it is our duty and privilege to protect the residents of St. James.”

Prior to the vote Sept. 19, St. James fire commissioners said they would move forward with selling the Route 25A/Lake Avenue building — which was purchased by the district for $500,000 in 2013 —  regardless of what residents’ decision was.

As they exited the voting booths, residents explained their stance on the proposal.

“I voted ‘no’ because the tax increase is too much and I was disappointed that the only plan that was put forth was a $12 million plan,” a resident who asked to remain anonymous said. “There was no B plan or C plan and I also don’t understand the sale process of the 25A building. If they’re going to sell it, then why don’t they use that money to renovate? It’s silly. Nobody needs more taxes at this point.”

Jerry Ruggieri, a 50-year resident, agreed.

“I voted ‘no,’” Ruggieri said. “I live two blocks down the road and I think it would cause havoc on Jefferson Avenue. They have two facilities that are more than enough to satisfy the town as far as fires and I don’t think we need the expense, in this day and age, creating a new fire department. We don’t need it. We’re fine.”

Victoria Johnston, however, voted “yes”.

“I just feel as though it’s in our town’s best interest to go with this new firehouse so that these guys have the best,” Johnston said. “These are people who wake up at 3 a.m. to go save your family members. They give up time with their families to come out and save yours. For a little bit more, everything could be good for them and be good for so long. I don’t get how you can say no to them.”

This version corrects the amount of “yes” and “no” votes casted.

A rendering of what the front of the proposed new St. James firehouse would look like. Image from St. James Fire District

St. James residents are being asked to vote Sept. 19 on whether to fund a new fire department building.

St. James fire commissioners are proposing a $12.25 million capital bond project to build a new 22,458-square-foot Jefferson Avenue facility.

The proposed Jefferson Avenue facility would be more than three times the size of the existing 7,407-square-foot building. The additional space would include spaces to serve as accommodations for firefighters and community members during storms or major emergencies, in addition to a meeting room for district and public use. It would be built in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, as the current firehouse is not.

The estimated cost of the proposed plan to consolidate to one Jefferson Avenue facility would be an increase of approximately $118 to $198 a year for taxpayers based on their home’s assessed value.

Polls will be open Sept. 19 from 3 to 9 p.m. at the Jefferson Avenue firehouse, located at 221 Jefferson Ave. in St. James. Residents in Election District 79 can vote at the Fairfield Condos in St. James.

A rendering of what the front of the proposed new St. James firehouse would look like. Image from St. James Fire District

By Sara-Megan Walsh

Firefighters are known for running into danger, but it can be difficult to get to the scene when firefighters are facing significant risk simply getting to their trucks.

St. James fire commissioners are asking residents to consider a $12.25 million capital bond project to build a new 22,458-square-foot Jefferson Avenue facility Sept. 19.

“We are not looking to build a luxurious firehouse, as other communities have,” St. James Fire District Chairman Lawrence Montrose wrote in a letter with other commissioners. “We are simply looking to provide our dedicated volunteers with the basic and modern resources they need to effectively do their job — a job that protects and serves the residents of this community in their greatest times of need.”

The proposal being voted on in the St. James Fire District includes tearing down the Jefferson Avenue firehouse and replacing the structure with one nearly three times as large. Photo from Google Maps

The fire district’s existing Jefferson Avenue facility sustained significant damage in an August 2016 storm. The building’s pre-existing infrastructure issues allowed 6 to 18 inches of water to rise up through the floors, flooding the building, according to the St. James Fire District commissioners through a spokesperson. The flood caused cracks to the weight-bearing walls in the truck bay and worsened stress cracks in the fire chief and commissioner’s offices, in addition to plumbing and electrical damage.

Since the flood, Jefferson Avenue volunteer firefighters have been getting into their gear in one building before running across the parking lot to get on a truck. While this is happening, the fire commissioners said other volunteers are often still entering the parking lot, creating a major safety concern. Volunteers are in danger of being hit by incoming vehicles as they cross to the trucks.

“One instance was almost a catastrophic event,” said the fire commissioners. “One individual fell in the parking lot and was almost run over by an exiting fire truck.”

Other safety issues have arisen. Two of the district’s fire companies are operating out of what was originally the storage and maintenance structure built on the rear of the property. Trucks responding to one of the district’s 1,298 calls in 2016 also had to maneuver through the traffic. Fire commissioner chiefs compared the situation to playing the video game Frogger.

The proposed Jefferson Avenue facility, if approved by voters, would be more than three times the size of the existing 7,407-square-foot building. The additional space would include spaces to serve as accommodations for firefighters and community members during storms or major emergencies, in addition to a meeting room for district and public use. It would be built in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, as the current firehouse is not.

St. James fire commissioners will be moving forward with selling the historic firehouse on Route 25A/Lake Avenue. Photo from Google Maps

If voters approve the project, construction of the new Jefferson Avenue facility would start around six months after the vote and would be completed within one year. Volunteer response to emergencies would not be interrupted by the construction, according to the district.

Regardless of voters’ decision, St. James fire commissioners said they will move forward with selling off the Route 25A/Lake Avenue building, purchased by the district for $500,000 in 2013. Due to the facility’s age, it’s not suited for the district’s needs.

The estimated cost of the proposed plan to consolidate to one Jefferson Avenue facility would be an increase of approximately $118 to $198 a year for taxpayers based on their home’s assessed value.

St. James Fire District will be holding a public information session for those who wish to learn more Aug. 29 at the Jefferson Avenue firehouse at 7 p.m. Residents can also tour existing facilities Sept. 9 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Sept. 14 from 7 to 9 p.m. and Sept. 17 from 1 to 3 p.m.

Rocky Point residents took to the polls Aug. 8 to vote on propositions to demo the old and rebuild a new North Beach Company 2 firehouse, and purchase a new fire truck. Photo by Kevin Redding

By Kevin Redding

Following a tight vote Tuesday, a decades-old firehouse in Rocky Point will officially be replaced with a more modern one, and a brand new fire truck will inhabit it.

Rocky Point Fire District residents took to voting booths at the North Beach Company 2 firehouse on 90 King Road Aug. 8 to weigh in on two propositions, one, to knock down the existing station for a safer, updated structure and the other, to acquire a new aerial apparatus.

Among a total 401 votes, 204 residents voted “yes” and 197 voted “no” to demolition, costing $7,250,000 to do so. Taxes will increase, but the maximum maturity of the bonds will not go beyond 30 years.

Rocky Point residents took to the polls Aug. 8 to vote on propositions to demo the old and rebuild a new North Beach Company 2 firehouse, and purchase a new fire truck. Photo by Kevin Redding

To purchase the new ladder truck, with a total cost of $1,250,000, members of the district voted 214 to 187 in favor. The maximum maturity of the bonds is said to not exceed 20 years.

“I’m very relieved,” Rocky Point Fire District Secretary Edwin Brooks said upon announcing the tallied votes to a crowd of cheering volunteer firefighters. “I didn’t think it would be as close as it was, but I’m relieved it passed. The majority of the community thought it was the right thing.”

Tim Draskin, a volunteer firefighter within the district for two years now, said it was an absolute necessity to refurbish the firehouse.

“The whole community will realize once it’s done just how much it’s going to impact everything,” Draskin said. “The building’s old and definitely needs it.”

Built in the early 1950s with very few upgrades since then, the current structure has been in need of repair and renovations for decades to accommodate for more modern requirements of firefighters, from new safety regulations to equipment and apparatuses, as well as mandatory handicap-accessibility.

Also, major out-of-date infrastructure, like heating systems, will be replaced.

Before votes were tallied, residents explained where they stood on the propositions.

“I’m not ashamed to say I voted ‘yes’ on both,” Pam Fregeau said, adding she knows the equipment needs to be updated. “I just want the firemen to be safe, because them being safe means my family is safe, means my grandchildren here are safe. I want us all to be safe. These firefighters put their lives on the line and they’re not even paid for it. For the amount it’s going to cost me a year, I think I can handle that.”

Mary Volz shared the same sentiment.

“I just want the firemen to be safe, because them being safe means my family is safe, means my grandchildren here are safe.”

— Pam Fregeau

“For the firefighters to do their job properly, they need a well-working building,” Volz said. “It should definitely be refurbished and if the taxes are going up either way, they should really do this work.”

One man, however, who asked to remain anonymous, did not agree.

“I think they’re excessive,” he said of the costs. “I’ve been in contact with numerous fire departments for many years and I’ve seen excessive spending of taxpayers’ money, so that’s why I did double ‘no.’”

District Commissioner David Brewer, who was among the board of commissioners that set the project in motion in June, said he was extremely grateful for the community’s support.

“The Board of Fire Commissioners is always trying to balance the needs of the fire department with the tax burden of the residents,” Brewer said over the phone. “We think these two bonds do just that.”

According to district officials, final design of the project will go forward, as well as the bidding processes for contractors.

They hope to break ground next spring.

The Rocky Point Fire District’s North Beach Company 2 station is located at 90 Kings Road. File photo by Kevin Redding

Sounding all alarms. Big changes within the Rocky Point Fire District will be left up to voters next month.

On Aug. 8, between 3 and 9 p.m., qualified residents in the district are encouraged to take to the North Beach Company 2 firehouse on 90 King Road to decide the fate of the decades-old building.

Following a resolution adopted by the Board of Fire Commissioners in June, voters will decide on two propositions: an authorization to completely demolish the existing firehouse and construct a new one on its footprint with updated infrastructure with a maximum, an estimated cost of $7,250,000; and the purchasing of a new aerial ladder truck with a maximum estimated cost of $1,250,000.

“It needs a lot of renovations and it’s not cost-effective to renovate. It’s cost-effective to look to the future to make it better.”

— Edwin Brooks

According to the fire district, if the propositions are approved, residents will see an increase in taxes, but will gather interest on each proposition in no more than 30 years and 20 years, respectively.

Built in the early 1950s, the current building has been in need of repair and renovation for decades, to accommodate for more modern requirements of firefighters — from new safety regulations to larger updates to equipment and apparatuses as well as mandatory handicap-accessibility.

A new firehouse will make for better safety to the community as well, according to fire district commissioners.

“This enables us to continue the service we’re already providing well into the future,” District Vice Chairman Kirk Johnson said at last month’s commissioner meeting. “It’s just a modern, environmentally-conscious building that will be able to run over the next 20, 30 years — one of our main focuses with the new building.”

Rocky Point Fire District Secretary Edwin Brooks echoed Johnson’s words.

“The old one has reached the end of its useful life,” he said. “It needs a lot of renovations and it’s not cost-effective to renovate. It’s cost-effective to look to the future to make it better. It’s good for everybody — good for the fire department, good for the public. It’s a win-win situation.”

Brooks said there are no projected tax figures or construction timelines as of yet in the event that the propositions are approved.

Kirk Johnson discusses authorizing the fee for an engineering survey of Rocky Point Fire District's North Beach Company 2 firehouse, to get the building reconfigured. Photo by Kevin Redding

It will eventually be out with the old and in with a new firehouse in Rocky Point.

The Rocky Point Fire District set in motion June 7 a long-term project that will replace its decades-old North Beach Company 2 firehouse, at 90 King Road, with a new, updated one that will better meet the needs of the modern firefighter.

According to District Vice Chairman Kirk Johnson, the proposed building project will   not expand on the current firehouse’s footprint but reconfigure its floorplan.

Rocky Point Fire District commissioners authorized a fee for an engineering survey of the North Beach Company 2 firehouse, to get the building reconfigured. Photo by Kevin Redding

Major, out-of-date, infrastructure — including heating systems — will be replaced, and accommodations will be made for safety requirements, larger equipment and apparatus needs, and mandatory handicap-accessibility — none of which were factors when the firehouse was built in the 1950s.

“This enables us to continue the service we’re already providing well into the future,” Johnson said. “It’s just a more modern, environmentally-conscious building that will be able to run over the next 20, 30 years. And overall safety to our members is one of our main focuses with the new building.”

Johnson, joined by district commissioners Anthony Gallino, David Brewer and Gene Buchner, met at the administrative office in Shoreham and unanimously voted to approve a State Environmental Quality Review Act expenditure of $2,500, a required fee in the preliminary planning of any privately or publicly sponsored action in New York, with a considerable focus on the environmental impacts of a project.

The funds will go to Nelson & Pope, a Melville-based engineering and surveying firm, whose associates will help with planning, designing and completing the projects on-schedule and within budget.

By authorizing the fee, the district’s first step in the process, it propels the necessary studies to get the project off the ground. No budgets have yet been drafted.

Rocky Point Fire District commissioners Gene Buchner, David Brewer, Kirk Johnson and Anthony Gallino during a recent fire district meeting to set a plan in motion to renovate Rocky Point’s North Beach Company 2 firehouse on Kings Road. Photo by Kevin Redding

“We’re at the mercy of certain phases which are out of our control, but we’d like to get it moving as expeditiously as possible,” Johnson said.

Renovations to the building have long been discussed by members of the Rocky Point district — with more than 2,000 calls a year in the department, split between EMS and fire calls, and equipment upgrades and training requirements increasing on a regular basis due to mandatory standards set by the National Fire Protection Association, the firehouse’s physical restrictions have become more obvious.

“With the age of this building, a lot of equipment is currently outgrowing current structures,” Gallino said. “Thirty years ago there was plenty of room, but now, trucks have had to get bigger, equipment needs have gotten bigger and firefighters literally can’t change their clothes.”

He added firemen are currently changing between a steel pillar and a fire struck that’s about to start rolling, and doorways to get through to the different rooms are only 10-feet high.

“Back in the day, the apparatuses were smaller and now we’re limited on what we can do to raise those doors,” Gallino said. “Some of the advanced firefighting apparatuses we’ve been looking at will be difficult to get into the building … it just needs to be replaced.”

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