About two years after a $4.75 million bond measure aimed at improving its dated Hulse Landing Road fire station was rejected by voters, the Wading River Fire District is officially going back to the drawing board, holding a public meeting next Monday to start making up new plans with interested members of the public.
In December of 2012, 198 voters opposed the bond measure while 126 favored it, nixing a plan to knock down the 5,100-square foot station that was built in 1982 and replace it with a new 11,500-square foot one.
The district is now inviting members of the public into the process in hopes of getting a plan through that will pass and upgrade its facilities.
“It’s really a matter of regrouping and engaging the community along with the department and district together,” said David Sterne, a consultant from Stony Brook hired by the district.
“We are trying to get everyone together to express what the needs are to make this an open process where we can come together and hopefully address these needs and concerns,” he added.
The proposal floated in 2012 would have cost most people in the district between $35 and $40 per year, according to previous coverage.
In addition to the $4.75 million that would be used to build the Hulse Landing Road station, the district had planned on using another $1 million from reserves, making it a $5.75 million project in total.
The district’s former manager told the News-Review in 2012 that the facility had outlived its life expectance by about 10 years. He also cited a leaky roof, an outdated HVAC system, problems with underground LIPA lines and general space constraints — as mandated by Occupational Safety Hazard Administration — as reasons needed for the upgrade.
Next Monday’s meeting, Mr. Sterne said, is being considered as a “kick-off meeting” to open discussions with the public about how to improve the district’s infrastructure. In addition to the outdated Hulse Landing station, he said that a “much smaller part of the project” would include spending funds to upgrade the district’s headquarters on North Country Road.
He said that he didn’t believe cost was so much an issue with the 2012 proposal as much as a lack of information for the public.
“I really think the problem was that people felt they were not as informed as they could have been on that vote. As far as the cost goes, I don’t think by any stretch that it was unreasonable.”
In addition, he said, timing could have played a role as the economy on a larger scale was in a worse spot than it is today.
Next Monday’s meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. in the district headquarters’ upstairs meeting room at 1503 North Country Road.
If voters pass a bond, it would be the second recent bond proposal OK’d in the Wading River area. In January, voters in the Shoreham-Wading River School District — which has different bounds — overwhelmingly approved borrowing funds for a $48.5 million construction project with 70 percent.