Setauket Fire District boundaries expand to include Old Field

Setauket Fire District boundaries expand to include Old Field

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.