RPFD is going ahead with a new $1 million bond after a community vote Tuesday, Oct. 13, with a narrow margin of just 18 votes.
The community in the Rocky Point Fire District, which covers the Rocky Point and Shoreham hamlets, voted 271 to 253 on new funds to finish the Station 2 firehouse construction project on King Road.
Officials have previously said that because of a delayed start, expanding construction costs and the pandemic they do not have the funds to complete the original $7.25 million project. District officials cited the projects late start, as well as increased costs due to the ongoing pandemic for why they needed these new funds.
“We are all very pleased that a majority of our residents came out and supported the project,” David Brewer, vice chairman of the board of fire commissioners, said in a statement. “We are equally pleased that some of the misinformation and inaccuracies posted on some social media sites didn’t adversely affect the outcome of the vote. From the beginning, the board of fire commissioners has been committed to providing our members and residents with a safe and modern firehouse. Our goal remains unchanged and that is to complete this building despite many financial setbacks and delays, and we thank all of our supporters.”
Social distancing and mask wearing rules were enforced, though the district did not allow people to cast absentee ballots, citing the extra time it would take to count those ballots as well.
In a Zoom call last week relating to this vote, officials said the new bond will cost residents an average of $18 more per year on their fire district taxes, though they could not relate how many years it may take to pay off the new bond.
Officials expect the project to be finished around the end of the year.
More Details on the Station 2 Firehouse Project
The district originally asked the community to support a $8.5 million bond in 2017, where $7.25 million would go to the construction of the new firehouse. Fire District Chairman Anthony Gallino said they originally included about 7% contingency of over $500,000. This new $1 million bond is looking at a 25% contingency of about $250,000. Gallino added that any unused funds of the new bond will be put to paying down the bond.
“We realized that [the original contingency] was not enough to cover obstacles, so we put a little more in there for this building,” Gallino said.
On Saturday, Oct. 10, district officials made a full breakdown of the project budget available. Documents show the district lacked $752,310 to complete the firehouse. That number is out of a remaining $1.5 million on a firehouse that is 75% complete. The district still has $500,000 in contingency bond funds and $293,814 left in money taken from the general fund.
There were issues on the project from the start, officials said during the call. The project manager they originally hired put out bids which were routinely around $1 million over budget. In August 2018, the district terminated its contract with its original construction manager. In February 2019, they hired a new project manager, Devin Kulka, the CEO of Hauppauge-based Kulka Group, and were able to get started with asbestos abatement in May 2019 and demolition followed in June. Materials and labor costs, especially with New York’s prevailing wage, also increased from when the bond vote was passed. The pandemic made things even more complicated.
Documents show there were items that came in way over what they were originally budgeted for several years ago, resulting in the $752,310 shortfall. HVAC, for example, was slated for $600,000, but is now awarded at $925,000. While a few items came slightly under budget, those overages make up the total of the project’s $1.5 million excess.
Kulka said during the Zoom call there was one contractor company that went under during construction due to COVID-19. He confirmed a surety company would be cutting a check for the cost between the work the contractor already did and what it wasn’t able to complete.
Gallino said materials costs increased by 10%. Some community members questioned what the cost could be on what has already been constructed, which now resembles a cinder block exterior, but officials said the price of prevailing wages kept costs high.
Currently the station 2 company is housed in the old Thurber Lumber property on King Road, which is owned by local developer Mark Baisch. The developer allowed the company into the property free of charge but plans to turn that property into a slate of 55-and-older rental pieces and would need the fire company to be out by the end of the year.
This article was updated Oct. 15 to include extra information and a quote from the fire district.