Town wants station for ambulance corps

04/29/2010 12:00 AM |

The town may end up acquiring the old Riverhead firehouse on Second Street for possible use as headquarters for the Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance Corps. But ambulance corps officials seem set on a plan to expand their existing Osborn Avenue building.

The Town Board is considering acquiring the old Second Street firehouse as a possible headquarters for the Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance Corps, town officials say.

There’s one problem with that plan: the ambulance corps doesn’t want it.

The Riverhead Fire District wants to swap the firehouse property for water district land it has long wanted off Route 58. The department now leases that land from the town for training and its annual motorized drill competition.

The fire district first offered the Second Street site, along with property it owns on Ostrander Avenue, in 2008 in exchange for the Route 58 property. But town officials said at the time they couldn’t afford to build new town offices on either site.

The town could use the firehouse — currently being phased out with the opening of the new Roanoke Avenue headquarters — for the ambulance corps and storage of police cars, said Councilman John Dunleavy.

“We can’t afford $10 million” to build new town offices, he said, but outfitting the old firehouse to house ambulance workers would cost about $500,000.

Keith Lewin, president of the ambulance corps’ board of directors, said corps officials had told the town in the past that they didn’t want the Second Street firehouse.

“The old firehouse is a bad place for the ambulance,” he said. “There’s too much traffic.”

Osborn Avenue, on the other hand, is a good location for an ambulance barn, he said, but the building was too small even when it was first built and needs to be either replaced or expanded. Town officials have said in the past that construction would be too costly.

Supervisor Sean Walter also said he hoped the Second Street building could become a new headquarters for the ambulance corps.

The corps could continue to house ambulances on Osborn Avenue, but use Second Street for meetings and training, Mr. Dunleavy said. The town also would use the building to store equipment for the police department, he said.

As for having training or meetings in the firehouse and ambulances on Osborn Avenue, Mr. Lewin said the ambulance corps would then have to maintain two buildings and wouldn’t have its people and its equipment in the same location.

Mr. Walter said he’s still hoping to convince the corps to take the firehouse site.

Speaking Monday on WLNG radio in Sag Harbor, Mr. Walter said the majority of the Town Board favors swapping the so-called tournament grounds off Route 58 for the Second Street firehouse.

“We are actively subdividing the town property at Stotzky Park where the fire department has their race track and we’re hoping to swap the water district property at Stotzky Park for the Second Street firehouse,” Mr. Walter said.

Dennis Hamill, chairman of the Riverhead Board of Fire Commissioners, confirmed Monday that the two sides were negotiating a swap involving the Second Street property. The fire district is no longer offering the Ostrander Avenue site, he said.

“Ostrander is off the boards,” he said of the land, which was given to the fire district years ago by Riverhead Building Supply. The fire district later decided not to build a new firehouse there. Vacant buildings on that site were burned in a massive fire last year; the property was cleared earlier this year and is currently up for sale, Mr. Hamill said.

Mr. Hamill said the fire department still uses the Second Street building for dispatching, but that personnel should be completely out of the building in a few weeks. The fire district already lets the town use the Second Street building for storage at no charge, he said.

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