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Wading River Fire District plans $6.4M bond vote for June


Last June, Wading River Fire District officials considered borrowing $4 million to $6 million to upgrade or replace the Hulse Landing Road fire station. Borrowing funds to upgrade its newer headquarters on North Country Road was discussed at a later date.

Now, officials are proposing to borrow $6.4 million in total to upgrade both the Hulse Landing Road firehouse and its department headquarters.

Details of the overall plans were discussed on Tuesday night, where district officials also announced a date for a referendum on the project is set for June 7.

Part of the $6.4 million renovation is the addition of a new Federal Communications Commission compliant radio system, which is slated to cost taxpayers $680,000, David Sterne, the district’s public relations person, said.

This system would include a new communication tower at both stations and a radio console at headquarters, allowing the department to function as a base station, he said. Back in November the district received a $200,000 grant from Senator Ken LaValle toward the implementation of this radio equipment.

In addition to the communication tower, the firehouse on Hulse Landing Road would get numerous changes should the bond pass, most notably including a new three-bay facility that would be connected to the current firehouse by a 15-foot breezeway.

The 2,809 square-foot garage is a change from plans discussed at public meeting in June, when two options were considered: adding on to the existing facility, or a complete tear-down and construction of a brand new station. At the time officials said the firehouse, built in 1982, was designed as temporary building and they were worried as to how much longer it would last.

“It would probably add about another $1.5 million because essentially we would have to strip the building down to the frame,” Joe Mattola, vice president of H2M Architects and Engineers, said of expanding the current station. “Whereas, by building next to it … there is a significant cost saving.”

Other renovations include changing the exterior of the main building, a septic system replacement, installing a new vehicle exhaust removal system, full handicap accessibility and more.

In 2012, the district held a referendum asking voters to replace the facility with a new 11,500-square-foot building for $4.75 million. The bond ultimately failed with 126 voters in favor and 198 opposed.

“Going back to 1982 when station two was built, you were looking at 500 calls a year,” Mr. Sterne said. “In 2014, it’s gone up to 1,040. So that speaks to the population growth. That speaks to the volume and needs for the fire department … it’s just inadequate as far as space goes.”

As for headquarters, capital improvements to the building were added to the most recent version of the bond proposal, including replacing a retaining wall, installing a new gas and diesel filling station, repairing the parking lot, updating the heating system, converting to natural gas, becoming fully Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant, and more.

In total, the expected renovations to headquarters will cost just over $4 million and the station two upgrades will total about $2.3 million. Together, this requires the Wading River Fire District to ask the taxpayers to approve around a $6.4 million bond in June.

Before deciding on this plan, the fire district was also considering options that would have cost totals of $8.8 million, $9.1 million or $10.3 million.

Should the fire district get the desired $6.5 million bond approved, it would have the option to finance it over either 20 or 25 years. Over 20 years, the estimated total debt service would add up to $9.2 million with interest. Riverhead residents would pay $74 a year toward the project, and those in Brookhaven $92.

If 25-year bonds were chosen, the estimated total debt service would be over a million dollars more, totaling around $10.5 million with interest. Those in Riverhead would pay $68 annually — $8 less per year — and it would cost Brookhaven residents $84.

“[The community committee and the fire department] came up with the solution that meets the needs, meets the safety issues and does the things that it needs to do,” Mr. Sterne said. “We talked about the goals of making the buildings last for a long time and planning for the future, as well as the communication needs, and does it in really what we found to be the most cost efficient way possible out of all the proposals.”

He said plans are nearly final, but not quite complete yet. Information about the plans and any further changes can be found on the Wading River Fire District’s Facebook page.

Photo Caption: Joe Mattola, vice president of H2M Architects and Engineers, going over plans for the Wading River Fire District headquarters at Tuesday night’s meeting. (Credit: Nicole Smith)

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