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Setauket Fire District

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Setauket Fire Department Headquarters. File photo.

When residents of the Setauket Fire District vote on Tuesday, Dec. 13, for fire commissioner, they will find one candidate on the ballot for a five-year term.

Anthony Todaro

Current fire commissioner Anthony Todaro is running unchallenged to retain his seat on the board, and he said first and foremost on his mind is recruiting and retaining more volunteers.

He joined the department in 1999 and became certified as a firefighter and EMT. Since then he has been a lieutenant, captain, assistant chief,  chief of department and has served on the board of directors. After leaving the chief’s office in 2014, he has been the department safety officer.

The 43-year-old has lived in Setauket for more than 30 years. He is married to a lifelong Setauket resident and is the father of two boys, 9 and 3.

Todaro started his career as a first responder at Stony Brook University Hospital where he was an emergency medical technician with the hospital’s EMS team. He later transferred to the university’s Environmental Health and Safety as a campus fire marshal.

For the past 13 years, he has been the senior fire marshal with the Town of Brookhaven’s Department of Public Safety, Division of Fire Prevention.

Todaro answered a few questions in an email about why he chose to run for another term.

Why did you decide to run for commissioner again?

I was elected fire commissioner five years ago and as a board we have accomplished a lot in that time frame. We have seen the opening of our new Main Street firehouse; we have upgraded our communications infrastructure and purchased new radio equipment; computers for the apparatus (MDTs); and we have purchased new fire apparatus and ambulances and currently have a new ladder truck on order. We have upgraded equipment such as battery-operated extrication equipment and self-contained breathing apparatus (air packs) and personal protective equipment for the firefighters and EMTs. As a board we have provided our responders with the best possible gear, equipment, vehicles and facilities while staying under the tax cap and keeping an eye on spending. 

I am running for reelection because I feel there is more work to be done and that I can contribute to helping the department and my community. I currently enjoy working with my fellow fire commissioners and feel that we work well together as a board. 

Is there an issue within the district that you would like to tackle?

One of the issues that we need to address as a board is recruiting and retaining more volunteers. Our community is blessed with dedicated and skilled volunteers who respond to calls at all hours of the day. These volunteers give so much of their time to serve their community while balancing their own careers and family obligations, but it is becoming more difficult. Volunteering is down nationally, and call volume continues to rise. Additional training requirements have increased over the years that add to the time volunteers have to devote to the department including new hazards faced in modern building construction, new technologies such as lithium-ion batteries and stored energy facilities and how to respond to these incidents, newer vehicle designs that require special knowledge during motor vehicle accidents and of course COVID just to name a few. 

How would you go about it?

A few years ago, we added part-time career firefighters in addition to our career EMTs and paramedics. This was not done to replace the volunteers but to shoulder some of the burden and help during the daytime when typically most members are working, and response was limited. The chief’s office is working hard to get the most out of the membership and it’s the board of fire commissioners responsibility to assist the chief’s office and provide them with the tools needed to accomplish their mission. 

Todaro added that anyone interested in joining the Setauket Fire Department can visit  www.setauketfd.com for more information. “I did almost 24 years ago, and it’s been an amazing experience,” he said.

Setauket FD election day 

Residents of the Setauket Fire District duly registered with the Suffolk County Board of Elections as of Nov. 21 are eligible to vote in the Tuesday, Dec. 13, election. Voters can cast their ballots between 2 and 9 p.m. at the firehouse located at 394 Nicolls Road, Stony Brook.

The five-year fire commissioner term commences on Jan. 1, 2023, and ends on Dec. 31, 2027.

Stony Brook FD fire commissioner race

Like the Setauket Fire Commissioner race, Stony Brook Fire District has one candidate for one position. Current fire commissioner Brian McAllister will look to retain his seat for a five-year term beginning Jan. 1, 2023, and terminating on Dec. 31, 2027.

Voters in the Stony Brook Fire District who have registered with the Suffolk County Board of Elections on or before Nov. 21 are eligible to vote.

Voting will take place Tuesday, Dec. 13, between 2 and 9 p.m. at Station 2, located at 1410 Stony Brook Road, Stony Brook.

TBR News Media was unable to reach McAllister before our deadline. We invite him and other fire commissioners to contact us in the future. We are always open to profiles on local fire commissioners to introduce them to the community and to educate our readers on the latest happenings in our fire departments and districts.

Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich

On Feb. 7, Brookhaven Town Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich announced that the Town has relocated the glass recycling bins from the parking lot across from the Three Village Inn in Stony Brook to the Setauket Fire Department at 394 Nicolls Road in East Setauket. 

This new location will offer greater convenience for Town of Brookhaven residents to recycle their glass. Only glass bottles and jars are accepted and they do not need to be separated by color. Glass collected from the Town’s twelve drop-off locations is crushed and used to replace sand in construction, saving natural resources and reducing waste.

“This project was completed thanks to the efficient teamwork of both the Setauket Fire Department and the Waste Management Team from the Town of Brookhaven. Thank you to everyone involved in making our community cleaner and greener,” said Councilmember Kornreich. “I encourage everyone to make full use of this resource for the well-being of both our community and the environment.

Other Town of Brookhaven glass recycling bins are located at:

Brookhaven Town Hall One Independence Hill, Farmingville, NY 11738
Brookhaven Landfill 350 Horseblock Road, Brookhaven, NY 11719
Manorville Compost Facility Papermill Road, Manorville, NY 11949
Holtsville Ecology Center 249 Buckley Road,  Holtsville, NY 11742
Rose Caracappa Sr. Center 739 Route 25A, Mt. Sinai, NY 11766
New Village Recreation Center 20 Wireless Road, Centereach, NY 11720
Henrietta Acampora Recreation Center 39 Montauk Highway, Blue Point, NY 11715
Mastic Recreation Center15 Herkimer Street, Mastic, NY 11950
Fireman’s Field 25 Middle Country Road, Ridge, NY 11961
Comsewogue Library 170 Terryville Road, Port Jefferson Station, NY 11776
Center Moriches Library 235 Main St. Center Moriches, NY 11934

For more information, call 631-451-6963.

 

Former Setauket Fire District commissioner Jay Gardiner recently received a proclamation for his service from Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn. Photo from Kara Hahn’s office

When Jay Gardiner decided last year not to run for reelection for fire commissioner in the Setauket Fire District, the former chairman of the board put the cap on decades of fire rescue experience.

Jay Gardiner, second from left, celebrates the grand opening of the district’s main firehouse in 2019 with former Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright, Fire Chief Paul Rodier and Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine. Photo by Bob O’Rourk

The longtime member of the Setauket Fire Department, who completed 30 years of volunteer service at the end of 2019, said he and his wife, Diane, are planning to move to Florida at the end of the year. While the soon-to-be 70-year-old is looking forward to spending more time with his wife and playing golf, he said he will still run his business Gardiner Plastics from a home office. The former commissioner said if he didn’t do some kind of work, he would be bored.

“I’ve been a workaholic most of my life,” he said.

When Gardiner joined the fire department in 1989, he already had 20 years of community service under his belt. Originally from Fresh Meadows, he served as an EMT in Queens with several volunteer ambulance crews.

“I’m a city boy, but I moved here in ’86,” he said. “It still makes me an old-timer, but that’s late compared to a lot of people that I know.”

Through the decades, in addition to volunteering with the department, he was an EMS lieutenant for the last 12 years. He was also an associate professor of Emergency Medical Care at Suffolk County Community College for 20 years, and he taught instructor-level courses for Suffolk EMS. At St. Francis Hospital, he was on the training faculty where he taught advance life support courses to its medical staff.

The South Setauket resident was appointed as commissioner in May of 2015 to fill the remainder of the term previously held by Thomas Gallagher. Later that year, Gardiner was elected to a five-year term as commissioner, and during his last three years on the board, he served as chairman.

When Gardiner first ran for fire commissioner in 2015, he said he felt his business background would come in handy. The former commissioner holds an MBA from the NYU Stern School of Business and has served on several organizational boards in the plastic industry.

When it comes to the board of fire commissioners and the departments in the district, Gardiner sees it as a team effort, and he’s proud of what the district has accomplished over the last few years.

“You can’t get the fire truck or the ambulance to the scene with one person,” he said. “It takes a group of people. It takes an officer. It takes a crew. It takes a driver. And if you don’t have all those working together, you don’t have an efficient department or an efficient board. The board has to work together, we have to be a team, and we’ve been very fortunate.”

“The board has to work together, we have to be a team, and we’ve been very fortunate.”

— Jay Gardiner

Some of the accomplishments Gardiner listed include the renovation of the main firehouse on Route 25A, the purchase of four new fire engines and updated equipment such as radios and air packs to modernize the emergency system. He also counts the addition of a few career firefighters during the day to the department as an accomplishment of the board.

“We were the first one on Long Island to actually call them career firefighters,” Gardiner said. “Nobody wanted to take that jump. It’s not an indictment on the volunteers.”

While it was a tough decision, he said the commissioners have a responsibility to the community. 

“Your job is a fiduciary responsibility to take care of that community, and 30 years ago, there were loads of people who lived in the community during the day, they could respond to the alarms,” he said. “The demographic has totally changed.”

With his departure from the board of commissioners, one of his teammates for decades, John Wastiewiz, took over as chairman of the board. Wastiewiz said he has known Gardiner since before the latter joined the fire department, when his wife worked for Gardiner Plastics. Wastiewiz described the former commissioner as the ultimate professional, and said he considered Gardiner the go-to guy, especially when it came to questions about EMS.

“Everything he’s done, whether it’s paramedic or fire commissioner, he’s always strived to be the best and constantly improving his skills and education, and he’s just a very good guy in general.” Wastiewiz said.

Gardiner said when it comes to being a volunteer firefighter he misses responding
to scenes.

“My wife always looks at me and she goes, ‘You miss it, don’t you?’” he said. “I say, ‘Yup,’ but everything has its time.”

When he moves to Florida, he said he will also miss the Three Village area, where his children grew up and went through the Three Village school district. He said he will especially miss the sense of local history and the area near Emma Clark library and the Frank Melville Memorial Park.

“We’ve always loved living in this area,” he said. “It has good restaurants and good people. The civics and the chamber of commerce do a lot of work to try to build up the area.”

However, while Gardiner and his wife may be moving, he said they will be back to visit as their four children, three daughters-in-law and three grandchildren live on Long Island.

When asked if he had some advice to share with his fellow Setauket firefighters, Gardiner said it’s important to remember the constant commitment to the community. 

“Never get complacent,” he said. “There’s always room for improvement. It gives you the motivation to push forward. You don’t want to say, ‘I’m done.’”

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Current fire commissioner and chairman of the board is not running for reelection in 2002. File photo by Phil Corso

With Setauket fire commissioner and chairman of the board Jay Gardiner not seeking reelection this year, two new candidates are set to run for his seat Dec. 8.

Sue Meyers

Voters will have the opportunity to choose between Setauket resident Jim Griffin and 25-year volunteer Sue Meyers. Griffin was a volunteer with the department for about a year, he said, but due to a change in the medical requirements, he was no longer able to fulfill the conditions and stepped down. The Navy veteran and retired police officer said he has been involved with other fire and rescue services for more than 30 years in departments such as Stony Brook and Jericho.

Meyers was the first woman to hold a commissioner’s seat in the district from Jan. 1, 2005, to Dec. 31, 2009. She would have continued to seek the position, she said, but her son, who passed away four years ago, had medical issues she had to attend to.

She said, if elected, one of her goals is to keep the balance between volunteers and paid personnel. In August 2018 the board of commissioners voted unanimously for the first time in favor of changing the titles of four paid fire protection coordinators to firefighters. She said right now there is a good balance between volunteers and paid employees and believes that should be maintained.

“I think the balance is important to preserve the volunteers who put their hearts and souls into this community,” she said.

She said she also wants to provide more opportunities for those who are older and may not be able to operate apparatus or respond to calls anymore. She said there has been a mentorship program that has worked out well, and senior members can bring a lot to the table as far as experience and the department history they provide.

“I would like to find a place for those gentlemen and ladies where even if they can’t have an active role … they can still contribute,” she said. 

A nurse practitioner, she is a single mom who has raised five grown children. She said her experience in the fire department as well as her role as a mother has helped sharpen her budgeting skills. She has talked to the district about a five-year plan, and she feels that with the district’s recent purchases of new apparatus and the renovated building on Main Street, the district can now watch its budget better and identify any inefficiencies.

She is also hoping to initiate an EMT recruitment program that requires three years of volunteer service in exchange for the class, certification and training costs the fire department provides. The requirement would prevent people from receiving the training and then leaving the department.

Meyers said that many women have served as crew chiefs and lieutenants in the department but haven’t gone as far as commissioner. She wants to show other women coming into the department that it’s an option for them.

“I think that needs to change,” she said. “We have just as much to offer.”

Jim Griffin

Griffin said he has morale, recruitment and retention at the forefront of his mind. The retired police officer agrees with Meyers that the current hybrid system, with paid employees and volunteers, is working but he doesn’t want to see it expanded right now.

“I don’t want to expand anything further without attempting the reorganization of the membership,” he said.

Due to his experience of not being able to serve due to changed medical requirements, he would like to see the district go back to volunteers using their own doctors instead of Northwell Health, which he described as “factory-type checking.” Griffin did not comment
on what his medical condition was.

“It should be about the individual,” he said.

Griffin said he also feels there is a disconnect between the district and department stemming from the commissioners’ office being located in a separate building on Hulse Road the last few years instead of the administration members working out of a firehouse with the membership.

He said the volunteer process can be shortened, as those who have been certified through other departments outside of Setauket, still need to start the certification process again in Setauket, a process he considers is unnecessary for experienced volunteers. With the certification classes not beginning until there are enough interested, he said it can take months for a volunteer to be ready to serve. For example, when he was interested in joining, it took seven months before he was called about training. He said the delay of getting in and then taking probation classes “is causing a major disruption in the membership.”

He added he would look to allow Stony Brook University students to join the department, even though he has been told that after a few years they move on.

“My answer is some of them are already qualified EMTs, paramedics, and they’re going to medical school,” he said.

If the district works with SBU students, he said he feels other student volunteers would take the place of those who have left. He added many students remain in the area for their residencies and could possibly continue with the department.

He is also looking to expand on fire prevention education. While many who are interested in volunteering may not be able to fight interior fires, he said he feels many can contribute in other areas. For example, electricians and teachers can help with fire prevention education. He would also like to work with community stores and have a sign-up program for residents where firefighters can go to their homes and replace batteries in smoke alarms for those who can’t climb ladders and perform similar fire prevention tasks. He added that firefighters can see potential problems such as hoarding and establish an outreach program and help.

“If we never have a fire in Setauket again, I’m OK with that,” he said. “We get the prevention out there, and it kind of serves two purposes.”

Residents of the Setauket Fire District can vote Dec. 8 from 2 to 9 p.m. at the firehouse located at 394 Nicolls Road in Stony Brook. The fire commissioner term is for five years commencing Jan. 1, 2021.

Setauket Fire Department Headquarters. File photo.
Billy Williams will be the next Setauket Fire Comissioner. Photo provided by Billy Williams

Changes are coming to the Setauket Fire District board.

On Dec. 10, insurance agent and volunteer firefighter Billy Williams unseated incumbent Kevin Yoos for the commissioner seat, 479-219.

During his campaign, Williams addressed financial matters and the need to keep the department volunteer based. The newly elected fire commissioner and others have said morale in the department has dipped after last year’s decision to change paid fire coordinators to paid firefighter positions. Last year the district approved three salaried firefighters, along with one more this year.

Williams said it felt all the hard work of campaigning was worth it when he saw the voter turnout. Involved in the Kiwanis Club and the local chamber of commerce, he added he felt many voted who didn’t vote in the past.

He said working on the morale in the department is at the forefront of his mind.

“It had a big bump yesterday,” he said. “I got a 150 to 200 texts from department members and other people.”

Williams said once he takes his seat, he’ll look at everything, especially when it comes to financial matters, and “do what’s right by the taxpayer.”

The new commissioner will take his seat Jan. 1, 2020, and will serve a five-year term.

 

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Setauket Fire Department Headquarters. File photo.

On Tuesday, Dec. 10, Setauket Fire District residents will choose between two candidates for a five-year term as fire commissioner, incumbent Kevin Yoos and challenger Billy Williams.

The race began with four candidates, but two petitions from volunteer firefighters Tom Gulbransen and Fred Leute were disqualified by the district. Gulbransen initially planned to continue to run as a write-in candidate but later said he has pulled out of the race entirely.

In the Setauket Fire District, the addition of three paid firefighters in 2018 has weighed heavily on many volunteers’ minds, and both candidates are looking to work to boost morale while recruiting and retaining volunteers.

Meet the candidates

Kevin Yoos

Incumbent Kevin Yoos

Fire commissioner Kevin Yoos, 49, has served one partial and one full-term and has been a volunteer firefighter for the Setauket Fire Department for 31 years.

The lifelong Three Village resident and his wife, Lisa, have two daughters in college. He recently retired after 24 years as a lieutenant of Squad Company 270 with the New York City Fire Department, which he joined after a short stint with the New York Police Department. His firehouse in South Queens responds to some 300 fires a year. He is a risk control consultant for fire department insurance and teaches at the Suffolk County Fire Academy of Yaphank as well as the New York State Academy of Fire Science.

He became involved in the Setauket Fire Department 31 years ago after watching his father, who joined in 1973 and was a former commissioner, respond to emergency calls. Yoos was 14 when he joined the junior fire company, and in 1988, at the age of 18, he joined as a full member. He has served as lieutenant captain, assistant chief and chief of department twice.

He said with a lot on his plate, he came close to not running again, but when he decided to retire, he had a conversation with his wife who agreed that with him now having more free time on his hands, he should run again.

“It’s in my blood,” he said. “It’s never going to go away.”

Challenger Billy Williams

Billy Williams

Billy Williams, 52, is a State Farm Agent in Setauket. He and his wife Denise have four children — three in college and one in ninth grade. Williams moved to Stony Brook in 1998.

Watching his grandfather and uncles in the Southold department, he said he always wanted to be just like them. Having grown up in Syosset, he applied to FDNY but it took a few years before he was accepted, and by that time he was married in Florida with a business and was unable to join. When he moved back to New York, his office was in White Plains for more than 10 years, and when he moved his office to Setauket, closer to home, the first thing he did was sign up to volunteer.

A six-year volunteer with the department, Williams said he wants to get spending under control and manage the assets they have as well as raise morale while working on recruitment and retention. He added that being a fireman has nothing to do with being a fire commissioner, who helps to run the business side of things.

“The chiefs and the department take care of the day-to-day operations of putting out the fires and getting the ambulance,” Williams said. “The commissioners do what’s in the best interest of the taxpayers.”

Finances

Williams said there is a need for leadership to run the business end and bring the departments and the district back together, adding he feels with running a business since 1994 and managing employees and balancing budgets, he would be an asset to the district. In addition to his work in the insurance industry, he is the president of the Three Village Kiwanis Club and on the board of the local chamber of commerce. He said he also helped to bring back annual events, including the Three Village Electric Holiday Parade which was on hiatus for a year.

“I just think I know what the community needs and what the department needs,” he said. “So, I’m the guy.”

Williams said the district spent $4.8 million net in 2015 and $8.1 million net in 2019 and there will be a $300,000 increase in 2020. He said with construction on the Main Street firehouse and the purchase of new fire trucks and brand new radios he doesn’t know how commissioners can say it will not affect residents.

“I don’t know what they’re doing, but you don’t increase your spending by about 70  percent and say that taxes are going to stay the same and that there’s going to be no cost,” Williams said.

Yoos said there was an increase in taxes a few years back after residents approved the bond for the new headquarters building on Main Street. In addition, new portable radios, radio infrastructure, air packs, stretchers for the ambulances, added law-mandated cancer insurance for the volunteers and other items were purchased.

“The equipment replaced was costing a lot to try to maintain and becoming less reliable and unsafe for members to operate,” Yoos said.

He added that the public referendum vote for a municipal lease/purchase agreement for new fire trucks will be supplemented by funds that were put in the reserve account.

“Purchasing these vehicles in bulk in this manner is saving the community approximately $400,000,” he said. “Since the money is already allocated for the reserve account for vehicles the payments for the new engines will come out of this line item. So there will be no increase to taxes for the purchase.”

When it comes to fire services, Yoos said he and other commissioners do a lot of reading and research when it comes to trends and statistics. And at times, revisit decisions.

“As we continue to pay off the bond, we will continually revisit the budget requirements, and it is very likely we will be able to reduce taxes while maintaining the same level of service,” Yoos said.

Paid firefighters

Last year the Setauket Fire District changed paid fire coordinator positions into paid firefighters, a move that many, including Williams, said has hurt the morale in the departments.

He said while he believes the hybrid that exists right now is a good mix, he doesn’t want to see it become all paid, which he believes the current leadership wants, because he said he feels there’s no need for it with Setauket responding to more EMT calls than fires.

“We’re spending money that we don’t need to spend, in my opinion,” he said.

Yoos said it’s not true that the board wants a paid department.

“If we can handle this 100 percent as volunteers, we’re all in,” Yoos said. “The problem is our volunteers are dwindling, and we need to rebuild that somehow.”

Yoos said he hopes to make a better environment for the volunteers but going forward with the few paid firefighters was something they had to do at the time. The number of volunteers has dwindled while the amount of alarms continue to increase, he said. When he started in 1988, there were 180 members with a waiting list for those who wanted to be volunteers, and most members were firefighters with only a few members as EMTs. Today there are 59 interior firefighters, out of 109 active members, that can go inside a structure and put a fire out, whereas others can only assist outside.

“I love the volunteer fire service,” Yoos said. “We want to promote it more. We want more volunteers, but everybody is busy.”

He said the addition of paid firefighters was around $20 to $30 a year per household.

Williams said the district needs to put in some work to boost morale.

“Once they know that we’re not fast forwarding to becoming a fully paid department is one way,” he said, adding that more recruitment and retention efforts would help.

The election for one fire commissioner for a five-year term in the Setauket Fire District will take place Tuesday, Dec. 10, between 2 p.m. and 9 p.m. Residents can vote at the 394 Nicolls Road firehouse.

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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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Setauket Fire Department Headquarters. File photo.

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.