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Setauket Fire District

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The Setauket Fire District hosted its annual 9/11 memorial ceremony at its Nicolls Road firehouse.

Firefighters, residents, legislators and scouts gathered in the district’s Sept. 11 Memorial Park to remember those who lost their life on Sept. 11, 2001.

After Chief Paul Rodier’s introductory remarks, state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), county Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) and Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) addressed the attendees. The ceremony culminated with a candle lighting ceremony.

 

 

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If residents vote ‘yes,’ the Setauket Fire District will buy four new pumpers like the one above used by the Dix Hills Fire Department. Photo from Dix Hills Fire Department Facebook page

A special election will be held in the Setauket Fire District Sept. 10 to replace some outdated equipment.

Residents will be asked to vote “yes” or “no” for four Pierce Class A Pumpers from PNC Equipment Finance, LLC. On Aug. 1, the board of fire commissioners approved a referendum to hold the vote to buy the new vehicles.

David Sterne, fire district manager, said the fleet of trucks is aging — two pumpers are more than 20 years old, while another is 26 years old. Over the years, manufacturers have made safety changes when it comes to pumpers, he said. For example, modern fire truck cabs are built differently. More recently built pumpers have restraints for firefighters seated in the back, and there have been updates to secure equipment to meet the latest standards of the National Fire Protection Association. 

“These trucks are wonderful, but we’re looking to build very scaled-down efficient trucks,” Sterne said. “That they do the job. They don’t have all the bells and whistles.”

If the majority of residents vote “yes,” it will give the district permission to enter into a tax-free Municipal Lease-Purchase Agreement with PNC Equipment Finance. The total cost of the four vehicles will not exceed $2,557,314. While the proposition is to approve a five-year payoff, Sterne said the district hopes to pay it off in three years.

He said a municipal lease-purchase agreement allows the district to set up a structured payment for the agreed amount of time and budget a certain amount for every year. Such a lease is different from a car lease, in that once all payments are made, the district will own the pumpers outright. While the agreement incurs interest, the rate is low.

“The good news is that interest rates are incredibly low, and we are looking at a below 3 percent interest rate,” Sterne said.

Since this is not a bond vote, it will not raise taxes in the fire district. The commissioners are currently preparing the budget for next year, and they are under the cap, according to the district manager.

Members of the fire district have test driven similar pumpers, which are made in the U.S., as some local departments have bought the same truck, such as Dix Hills which owns two.

“We’re excited to have something that will be under warranty for quite a while and will be very reliable for us,” Sterne said.

When it comes to voting for special elections like the one taking place Sept. 10, Sterne said residents can find information in various places. In addition to the Setauket Fire District posting a legal notice in The Village Times Herald, residents can find announcements on electric signs outside the firehouses, the district’s Facebook page and website, www.setauketfd.com. Mailings are not done for special elections, according to Sterne, since they can cost thousands of dollars to do. Mailings are saved for bond votes since they have the potential to raise taxes. 

Residents can vote on the proposition to purchase four new pumpers Sept. 10 from 2 to 9 p.m. at the firehouse located at 394 Nicolls Road, Stony Brook.

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Construction on the Setauket Fire House on Main Street in Setauket should be completed in the next few weeks. Photo by Rita J. Egan

While the spring weather is signaling the near future completion of two anticipated Three Village construction sites along Route 25A, it also promises a vacant storefront on Route 347 will once again be filled.

Setauket firehouse

The Setauket Fire District will complete work on its firehouse at 190 Main St. in Setauket in the next few weeks. With completion in sight, the district will soon be choosing a date for the community grand-opening event that will most likely take place in the summer.

“We believe that our residents will view the new structure not just as a cornerstone at the crossroads of the Three Villages, but a restatement of our commitment to providing for the safety and well-being of our citizens,” said Jay Gardiner, chairman of the board of fire commissioners. “We are proud of the collaboration between the local groups and the fire department in creating a state-of-the-art facility that will allow us to continuously improve our fire and rescue services, while respecting the historic architecture and design which is the hallmark of our community.”

During the construction, residents have commented on the lights in the firehouse that have been left on at night. David Sterne, district manager, said the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration and insurance regulations require lights be kept on in unsecured construction sites due to safety issues if someone were to break in. The district manager said the new firehouse has LED lights which use little electricity, but with doors and security access added this week, it will no longer be necessary to keep the lights on all night.

Stony Brook Square

The future Stony Brook Square shopping center on Route 25A across the street from the Stony Brook train station is set to be completed in the middle of this summer, according to developer Parviz Farahzad. Businesses such as Teachers Federal Credit Union, a coffeehouse, a Thai restaurant, a bubble tea place, Jersey Mike’s Subs and more are set to move in when the shopping center is completed.

Development was stalled last summer when the Town of Brookhaven Planning Board issued a stop-work order after significant field changes were discovered at the site by the town.

At the Dec. 17 planning board general meeting, the board members approved some modifications, including the location of the most western structure, known as building 1, toward the front of the shopping center being shifted a few feet from the original plan, widening of the curb cut onto Route 25A and driveway access from 24 to 30 feet. The board at the same time denied the revised building location of a second building, which was constructed a few feet back from its original planned position. The denial called for the developer to construct the structure, identified as building 5, at the location initially approved by the board, which will bring it in line with building 1.

“I disagreed with the decision, but I respected the decision,” Farahzad said, adding that the change won’t cause any further delays.

Former Waldbaum’s

The vacated Waldbaum’s building in Brooktown Plaza on Route 347, Stony Brook, will soon be a prime spot for those seeking exercise instead of groceries. Waldbaum’s was located at the site for decades.

Becky Zirlen, senior public relations manager with Planet Fitness, said the chain will open a new 18,000 square-foot location in the shopping center by the end of the year.

She said the gym will offer the latest cardio and strength equipment, also free fitness training. There will be a “black card” spa which will include hydromassage beds, massage chairs and tanning beds/booths for Planet Fitness black card members.

Joseph Scimone, managing member of Lighthouse Realty Partners from Valley Stream which manages the site owned by Serota Properties, said in addition to Planet Fitness, the discount home furnishings store HomeSense, which is owned by TJX Companies and operates Marshalls and T.J. Maxx, will also lease 27,250 square feet of the former Waldbaum’s space. TJX marketing specialist Hannah Bramhall said the company “has not announced a new store in the Stony Brook area.”

Scimone said there is approximately 12,000 square feet of the former Waldbaum’s store left to be leased.

Setauket Fire District is seeking to add an additional full-time equivalent paid position to its ranks. File photo by Bob O’Rourk

The Setauket Fire District is looking to add an additional paid firefighter position to its ranks.

On March 14, the district will hold a public hearing to provide residents the opportunity to voice their opinions to fire commissioners about adding one full-time equivalent position — eight hours a day for five days a week — to the district.

Setauket boasts a little more than 100 active volunteer members, and Aug. 23 the commissioners approved three FTE positions, which translated into four per diem fire coordinators transitioning to paid firefighters.

David Sterne, district manager, said industry standard guidelines call for a fire pumper crew to consist of a minimum of four people. In August, after three FTEs were approved, the hope was for three paid firefighters and at least one volunteer to ride together every weekday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“While we’ve had fair amount of volunteer members doing duty crews with our career crew, it is not happening often enough to create the situation where we have a four-person crew the majority of the time during these hours.”

— David Sterne

“While we’ve had fair amount of volunteer members doing duty crews with our career crew, it is not happening often enough to create the situation where we have a four-person crew the majority of the time during these hours,” Sterne said.

The goal of the March 14 decision is to ensure they get a minimum crew during crucial hours.

“The board is not expanding the hours or days of coverage,” Sterne said. “This was all budgeted for and will not impact the budget in any adverse way.”

At the Aug. 23 meeting, approximately three dozen people filled the district headquarters meeting room and hallway. Among the concerned residents that spoke during the public hearing was former fire Commissioner Ed Forrester, who at the time said he felt there hadn’t been enough conversation about the title change.

“I really think it’s going to be the beginning of the death of the volunteer fire system,” Forrester said. “It’s going to spread like the wildfires out East and it’s going to Selden and Centereach and Coram, and everyone is going to say they need this. I actually feel it’s a want right now.”

At the meeting, Commissioner Jay Gardiner said the district has come a long way since the days when volunteers worked in the area at local mom and pop stores or as fishermen. He added due to the high cost of living in the area it has become prohibitive for many to establish careers near where they live, and work schedules make it impossible for them to volunteer.

He said the department also has seen a significant rise in the median age of its members. Many of the district’s senior members no longer qualify as interior firefighters due to their advancing age. This becomes an issue during daytime hours.

Sterne said the commissioners have been actively involved with the department in helping to recruit more volunteers. Another class of recruits is due to be sworn-in.

“The goal of daytime, weekday augmentation is to ensure that the community receives our service quickly from highly trained personnel,” Sterne said. “Whether or not those people receive a paycheck is irrelevant to the person receiving the help. We are very lucky to have the dedicated volunteers we have to provide the service that they provide.”

Sterne added the majority of volunteer members provide overnight crews.

“[They] spend many a sleepless night responding to alarms, only to have to go to their ‘paid’ job the next day,” he said. “It is with a strong sense of pride that these members serve their community, and it is with the same pride that the board looks to help them and provide them with assistance in doing so during the difficult times.”

The public hearing will be held at the Setauket Fire District administration building located at 26 Hulse Road in Setauket, March 14 at 6:30 p.m.

Setauket Fire District is prepared for a soft opening of the Route 25A firehouse in mid-February. A soon-to-be landscaped corner features a glacial erratic rock that was unearthed on the fire department’s property. Photo by Karina Gerry

Residents driving along Route 25A in Setauket are discovering firehouse construction has unearthed something huge.

In the last few weeks, a large rock has been the focal point of a soon-to-be landscaped corner on the northwest portion of the Setauket Fire Department’s Route 25A property. David Sterne, district manager of the Setauket Fire District, said the rock was visible on the property in the past, and there is a more massive rock that workers couldn’t dig out. Sterne said no one has measured the unearthed rock yet.

“It was always a fixture near the rear entrance of the firehouse, but it wasn’t until this project that we were able to fully dig it up and realize how big it was.”

— David Sterne

“To me, the most interesting part is that for years and years only about the top quarter of the rock was what was visible out of the ground,” he said. “It was always a fixture near the rear entrance of the firehouse, but it wasn’t until this project that we were able to fully dig it up and realize how big it was.”

State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), who has a master’s degree in geology, said the rock is called glacial erratic, which is a piece of bedrock that has been transported from a site other than where it has been discovered. Glacial erratics found in the area such as Patriots Rock on Main Street in Setauket most likely originated in the Long Island Sound. He said the firehouse rock’s structure suggests that it is a metamorphosis sediment, and it can be anywhere between 500 million and a billion years old.

“It’s quite possible that this was originally a sedimentary rock with layers that has been buried very deeply in the earth, possibly in the base of an ancient mountain chain now eroded away,” he said, adding the lines suggest that when it was at the base of the mountain chain it was most likely subjected to great weight that pushed it down to the mantle of the earth, which caused mineral deformation and reformation of the rock.

“To have it associated with our fire department, with its strength and resilience, and it being one of our oldest institutions in the community and position of strength and endurance, I think the symbolism is very positive, very strong,” he said.

Sterne said the firehouse plans to add benches near the rock for residents to enjoy the garden or to sit and view parades.

When it comes to the construction of the new firehouse, the fire district manager said many residents have commented that the house seems larger than what they anticipated, but he added the building design hasn’t changed since a $14.9 million bond was approved in April 2014.

Along Route 25A, the actual footprint is only 6 feet wider than the original firehouse. Sterne said it may appear larger due to the truck room on the east side now having two stories in both the front and back. In the original building, there was only one story closer to the street and a second story toward the back. This new two-story structure includes offices, meeting and training rooms, and Sterne said the meeting room will be available for community use.

A new apparatus bay on Old Town Road was completed in February 2018, and the structure is connected to the original firehouse on Route 25A. Trucks now exit and enter on the Old Town Road side instead of Route 25A. After work on the bay was completed, construction began on the 25A side. Sterne said the facade of the western portion of the Main Street building, the original 1935 structure, is the same.

While the hopes were that the firehouse would open in November of 2018, Sterne said it now should be ready for a soft opening by mid-February and, when the warmer weather arrives, the fire department plans to host a ribbon-cutting and community ceremony.

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A test run of the rebuilt waterfall at the Setauket Fire Department’s memorial park. Photo by Bob O'Rourk

The Setauket Fire District will hold its annual 9/11 remembrance ceremony Tuesday, Sept. 11 at 7:45 p.m. The event will take place at the district’s 9/11 Memorial Park, adjacent to the firehouse located at 394 Nicolls Road in Stony Brook.

According to the fire department’s public information officer Bob O’Rourk, one of the features this year is the rebuilt waterfall portion of the memorial park’s pond. The original waterfall has been repaired often, and the owners of Sound Shore Pond offered their services to rebuild it for free. A double waterfall from the pond surrounds a piece of steel from the World Trade Center.

The 9/11 Memorial Park also includes two trees planted in 2016 that were seeded from the 9/11 survivor tree located at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum at the World Trade Center and a stone monument inscribed with the names of those lost on 9/11.

Among those who will be remembered are Thomas Dennis of Setauket, who worked for Cantor Fitzgerald; New York City firefighters Frank Bonomo and John Tipping, both from Port Jefferson; Patrick Lyons of Setauket; and New York City firefighter Captain Thomas Moody of Stony Brook.

All are welcome to join the members of the Setauket and Stony Brook fire departments, local legislators and Boy Scout troops at the event. The ceremony lasts approximately 30 minutes and will be followed by refreshments in the firehouse.

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Volunteers with the Setauket Fire Department respond to a fire in Poquott Aug. 16. Photo by Bob O'Rourk

The Setauket Fire Department is embarking on new territory.

Commissioners of the Setauket Fire District voted unanimously Aug. 23 in favor of changing the titles of four paid fire protection coordinators to firefighters. The four will be the first paid firefighters in the district’s history.

Before the vote, a public hearing was held to give volunteers and residents the opportunity to air any grievances or ask questions. Approximately three dozen filled the meeting room and hallway as Commissioner Jay Gardiner began the hearing by reading a statement from the board members. He said the decision was the result of commissioners identifying issues in the fire district for several years.

“This is not an indictment on the volunteers. We have said this over and over again. We are all proud of the work of our fire and EMS volunteers.”

— Jay Gardiner

“The changing demographics of the membership of the fire department has been significant, and coupled with the decrease in number of new members, has manifested itself in a decline in the ability to respond to fire alarms with adequate personnel and proper equipment during certain critical periods,” Gardiner said.

The commissioner said the district has come a long way since the days when volunteers worked in the area in local mom and pop stores or as fishermen. He said due to the high cost of living in the area it has become prohibitive for many to establish careers near where they live, and work schedules make it impossible for them to volunteer.

He said the department also has seen a significant rise in the median age of its members. Many of the district’s senior members no longer qualify as interior firefighters due to their advancing age. This becomes an issue during daytime hours.

“Our district today has a daytime population of nearly 95,000 people which includes most of the university, the hospital and the Belle Mead Road corridor,” Gardiner said. “According to the National Fire Protection Association, this categorizes our district as an urban population and the guidelines require a certain number of firefighters as well as an average response time for incidents. It is incumbent upon all of us to make sure we are in reach of this guideline to ensure the safety of our residents.”

Gardiner said the district has been replacing retired fire coordinators with per diem workers who have professional firefighting experience. Under the state’s civil service laws, the fire coordinators handled tasks such as fire hydrant and commercial building inspections, but not legally allowed to respond to calls for help.  By changing their position to that of a firefighter, they will begin responding to active fires alongside the volunteers.

The district is looking to have three paid firefighters during the hours of 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday. Since the coordinators were already on the payroll, the change of position to paid firefighters will not affect the district’s budget.

Gardiner added there is no intention to fully replace the volunteer system, but the coordinators-turned-firefighters will help augment the volunteers already in place.

“God help us if your proposal to pay three or four firefighters causes a drop in volunteer morale and participation.”

— Tom Gulbransen

“This is not an indictment on the volunteers,” he said. “We have said this over and over again. We are all proud of the work of our fire and EMS volunteers.”

Ken Larsen, firefighter and honorary chief, read a letter from volunteer Tom Gulbransen, who felt the district was giving too much attention to paid staff. He asked the commissioners to reconsider the best method to address the shortage of available volunteers to respond to daytime calls. Gulbransen suggested the fire department and district could work together to develop multiple options.

“God help us if your proposal to pay three or four firefighters causes a drop in volunteer morale and participation,” Larsen read. “It is unsafe and unprofessional to propose these myopic single steps in isolation.”

Former Commissioner Ed Forrester said he felt there hasn’t been enough conversation about the title change, and while he opposed the plan, he said if the commissioners could explain why it’s an absolute need he would back them 100 percent.

“I really think it’s going to be the beginning of the death of the volunteer fire system,” Forrester said. “It’s going to spread like the wildfires out East and it’s going to Selden and Centereach and Coram, and everyone is going to say they need this. I actually feel it’s a want right now.”

Remembrances and memorials were held across the North Shore Monday to honor those lost as a result of the terrorist attacks Sept. 11, 2001.

The Port Jefferson Fire Department held its annual 9/11 ceremony on the grounds of the department. The department’s flag was raised to half mast, a bell was rung to remember each of the Brookhaven Town residents who died that day and the Port Jefferson Middle School Orchestra accompanied the event with performances.

The Setauket Fire District held its annual 9/11 remembrance ceremony at the district’s Memorial Park on Nicolls Road in Stony Brook.

Residents, elected officials and firefighters from Rocky Point, Shoreham, Miller Place and beyond gathered at the Rocky Point Fire Department 9/11 Memorial Ceremony to honor those who lost their lives.

Hundreds of Huntington residents attended “We Stand United In Love,” a multi-faith candlelight prayer service remembering 9/11 and its victims in Heckscher Park.

This version will be updated with photos from more events.

The Setauket Fire District’s 9/11 Memorial Park includes a monument with all the victims’ names.

The Setauket Fire District will hold its annual 9/11 remembrance ceremony Monday, Sept. 11 at 7:30 p.m. The event will take place at the district’s 9/11 Memorial Park, adjacent to the firehouse located at 394 Nicolls Road in Stony Brook.

All are welcome to join the members of the Setauket and Stony Brook fire districts, local legislators and Boy Scout troops at the event.

The park was described as a “solemn park made by mortals to remember angels” during a speech given by Department Chief William Rohr last year. It features two trees planted in 2016 that were seeded from the 9/11 survivor tree located at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum at the World Trade Center. The park also includes a stone monument inscribed with the names of those lost on 9/11 and a patriotic water display.

Among those who will be remembered are Thomas Dennis of Setauket, who worked for Cantor Fitzgerald; New York City firefighters Frank Bonomo and John Tipping both from Port Jefferson; Patrick Lyons of Setauket; and New York City firefighter Captain Thomas Moody of Stony Brook.

Setauket firefighters battle a 2010 Old Field barn fire. Photo by Dennis Whittam

Residents of Old Field Village will see a new line on their Brookhaven tax bill for 2018.

At a July 20 Brookhaven Town public hearing, the town council unanimously approved a motion to extend the boundaries of the Setauket Fire District to include Old Field. The change means that instead of paying for contractual services through the village budget, residents will pay taxes for fire, rescue and emergency services to the town when the new tax billing period begins Dec. 1.

Towards the end of last year, Old Field Mayor Michael Levine and the village board of trustees requested the expansion after the village received fire and emergency protection services from the district on a contractual basis for decades. The village includes approximately 400 homes and no commercial properties, and while residents received the same services from Setauket fire departments as residents in the district, they were unable to vote in district elections or run for a position on the board.

Marie Michel, assistant town attorney, said the hearing was required by the state.

“While a fire district is its own municipal entity, New York State town law requires that the town in which the fire district is situated conduct a public hearing to consider the proposed fire district extension,” Michel said.

According to the plan prepared by Hauppauge-based law firm Farrell Fritz, P.C. and posted on the Brookhaven Town website, the cost of the one-year contract for Old Field in 2017 was $515,000 with the right to renew in 2018 at the same rate. From 2012 to 2016, the village paid a contractual rate, which increased slightly each year. The cost of the contract ranged from $340,000 in 2012 to $382,673 in 2016.

The increase in the cost of the contract was attributed to the fire district’s plans to expand and refurbish the existing Main Street Fire Station at a cost of approximately $14 million dollars.

Both Stephen Shybunko, Old Field deputy mayor, and Jay Gardiner, vice chairman of fire commissioners, were in attendance at the July 20 public hearing.

Shybunko said the village’s reasons to be included in the fire district were monetary.

“The amount of payment proposed in the most recent contract would be equal to what the tax rate was so in fairness and equity we have been going through the steps to be included in the fire district as we will be paying a rate equal to all other members of the fire district,” Shybunko said.

Gardiner said the board of fire commissioners was in favor of the resolution.

“We have been providing fire and emergency services to Old Field for over 50 years, and we intend to continue to provide excellent fire, rescue and emergency services,” the commissioner said.

Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) said residents who spoke at a previous town board meeting asked if taxes would increase for residents within the fire district’s current boundaries.

“Their taxes will not be raised as a matter of this extension,” Michel said.