The Center Moriches Fire District failed a $17.9 million bond proposition by slim margins on June 20, with a total of 221 no votes to 201 yes votes. The board has decided to set a revote on Sept. 12 for the original bond proposition that would pay for the renovation and expansion of the department’s firehouse. Due to the larger size of modern fire trucks, the present firehouse fails to meet federal and fire industry codes.
If passed, the bond will allow for the renovation and expansion of the department’s firehouse, which presently does not have the capacity to accommodate larger trucks required by National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards.
The proposal includes a reconstruction of a portion of the facility originally built in 1930, as well as renovations that will bring the overall building into compliance. The apparatus bay built in the ‘70s is too narrow for firefighters to safely and efficiently dispatch. The ‘90s-built annex building also requires roof and exterior repairs and is too small for modern fire trucks. In addition, the existing radio room on the ground floor of the main firehouse will be reused to accommodate the 24-hour presence of EMS personnel, who currently lack a dedicated space at the firehouse.
The passage of the bond will increase Center Moriches Fire District residents’ taxes from $24.188 per $100 of assessed valuation to $35.212. This, according to fire department officials, equals less than $6.50 per week, less than $1 a day, for a typical home assessed at $3,000. It also keeps the cost of fire and EMS services well below that of nearby districts such as Coram, Brookhaven/Shirley, Middle Island, and North Patchogue. Fire district taxes make up less than 7.5 percent of the average Center Moriches property tax bill.
“We’re proposing an expansion, not an entirely new structure,” stressed John DeLong, chairman of the board of commissioners. “At less than $1 a day, this is a very affordable option. And this expansion is needed to protect the community’s safety.”
The district’s fleet of vehicles has expanded from 10 to 19—almost double—including five fire trucks, three ambulances, two fire police vehicles, an advanced life-support first responder, and two rescue boats. The plan will allow for the department to bring their communications system, which is currently in the basement, to the ground level to provide better protection from the threat of flooding.
Additionally, the new space will provide the firefighters with a separate gear storage space, improving conditions by minimizing exposure to carcinogens. The current overcrowding is also a violation of NFPA standards.
Lastly, according to the department, the renovations and expansion will be less costly than building a new facility. The $17.9 million bond will be supplemented with $500,000 in reserve funds, bringing the total project to $18.4 million. Sandpebble Project Management of Speonk, N.Y., is to serve as construction managers.
“Our volunteers freely give a substantial amount of their time to protect the safety of Center Moriches residents,” said commissioner Edward Stypulkowski, “yet, both they and their equipment are crammed into a substandard, undersized, and obsolete firehouse.”
“These essential renovations will bring us into compliance with current fire safety codes and standards,” he said. “They’ll also help protect the health and safety of our volunteer firefighters and the community at large.”
“Our volunteers—your neighbors—are saying to the community: ‘Help us help you.’”
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