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Rocky Point Fire District

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Also, major out-of-date infrastructure, like heating systems, will be replaced.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

Rocky Point Fire District paramedic Rob DeSantis; Carol Hawat, EMT supervisor in Rocky Point and Miler Place fire commissioner; firefighter Rob Bentivenga; and district vice chairman Kirk Johnson are thrilled to cut response time and help those in need with the new building. Photo by Kevin Redding

Residents on the west end of Rocky Point no longer have to wait long for urgent medical attention thanks to a new paramedic station right in their backyard.

Rocky Point Fire District’s new first responder building is located at 89 Hallock Landing Road. Photo by Kevin Redding

The Rocky Point Fire District unveiled a newly renovated first responder’s office building July 3, along with an EMS vehicle garage on 89 Hallock Landing Road that will give residents in the area closer access to paramedics, who previously had to travel from the far east end of the district at Shoreham Fire Company 3 to provide for those in emergency situations. John Buchner, chairman of the board of the fire district, was the initiator and prime mover behind this project.

The new location, across the street from the Rocky Point Fire Department, cuts a paramedic’s response time down about five minutes, which could be the difference between life and death, District Vice Chairman Kirk Johnson said.

“If you have chest pains and you can’t breathe, you want somebody there as quickly as possible,” Johnson said, pointing to heavy traffic on Route 25A as a main reason for the delay in response. “We wanted to even out the protection of the district and now we can get the first responder to the front door quicker on the west side of town.”

Rocky Point Fire District’s new paramedic building has a garage to help with the lack of storage, especially for vehicles. Photo by Kevin Redding

Paramedic Rob DeSantis believes it will be a great help to responders and residents alike.

“Driving from Shoreham to here is difficult, and coming from here, we beat all that traffic,” DeSantis said. “Response time has lowered incredibly. Give it four or five months when they do statistics on different responses, you’re going to see a big change in time.”

The paramedic headquarters sits on .92 acres of what had long been a mostly abandoned stretch of property, which includes a 2,000 square foot building previously used as a community church known as the Parish Resource Center, and what were once two rotted buildings seemingly beyond repair.

In March, the fire district bought the entire property, including the buildings, for $250,000, allocating from its capital reserve budget, and got to work to turn the eyesore into a vital part of the community.

Rocky Point Fire District’s new paramedic building will help cut down time when traveling west into Rocky Point. The time saved is crucial to saving lives. Photo by Kevin Redding

Starting May 5, firefighter and go-to maintenance man Rob Bentivegna renovated the roofs, gave new paint jobs and transformed the termite-infested remains of one of the buildings into an administrative paramedic office stocked with a kitchenette and lounge area. Out of the other building he set up a maintenance facility for repair needs. The new, expansive garage on the property will help with the fire district’s lack of storage space for its vehicles. As for the church, members of the district hope to utilize its basement for fire and EMS training classes in addition to the Suffolk County Fire Academy in Yaphank, as well as meetings with neighboring departments and town associations.

“We have had a lot of compliments from a lot of the community — they’re like ‘oh, it’s great what you guys have done,’” Johnson said. “People hear the fire department bought this property, and figure it’ll just level everything and put a bunch of fire trucks there, but no, it’s part of the community.”

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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