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Jul 13, 2015 4:38 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Hampton Bays Fire District Won't Say Why It Is Buying Land

The Hampton Bays Fire District’s most recent acquisition occurred in 2004, when it purchased land on Ponquogue Avenue that now houses its one substation. AMANDA BERNOCCO
Jul 15, 2015 9:56 AM

Hampton Bays Fire District officials are looking to spend up to $300,000 to acquire property in the hamlet, but are refusing to share why they need the land, or even explain how it could eventually be utilized.

At its most recent meeting on July 1, the Hampton Bays Fire District Board of Fire Commissioners adopted a resolution stating that it wants to tap up to $300,000 from the district’s Land Reserve Fund “for a parcel of land within the Fire District for the purposes of said Fire District …” according to a legal notice published in the July 9 edition of The Press.

The notice also states that the purchase would be subject to a permissive referendum, though a date has not yet been set for that public vote.

Both David Van Scoy, the secretary for the Hampton Bays Fire District, and Fire Commissioner Rob King confirmed this week that the board wants to buy land somewhere in the hamlet. Both declined, however, to explain why the district needs the land, or where, precisely, they are looking to acquire it. They agreed that sharing such information could jeopardize the pending sale.

“I’m not at liberty to say,” Mr. Van Scoy said when asked what the fire district intends to do with the land before referring questions to Mr. King.

Mr. King, when reached later the same day, also said he was “not at liberty to say” anything about the land—including what the fire district intends to utilize it for—until the transaction is complete.

Neither Mr. King nor Mr. Van Scoy could say when the deal is expected to be closed.

Bob Freeman, the executive director of the State Committee On Open Government, said this week that a fire district is legally obligated to share its intentions with taxpayers—specifically, why officials believe they need to buy property.

He also dismissed the excuse that sharing such information could undermine the pending real estate purchase, as has been suggested by fire district officials.

“The reason itself would have no impact on the fire department to get an optimal price,” Mr. Freeman said, referring to the insistence of fire district officials that revealing what they intend to do with the land could somehow put the sale at risk.

Brad Pinsky, attorney and business manager for the Bridgehampton Fire District, also noted that it is an “uncommon” practice for a taxpayer-funded fire district to not disclose its reason for wanting to acquire land.

“It’s hard to think of too many reasons why a fire district wouldn’t tell the public why they’re spending the public’s money,” Mr. Pinsky said.

He speculated that the Hampton Bays Fire District could be seeking land to house a new structure, such as storage facility, or to house a training facility, which Hampton Bays currently lacks. Mr. Pinsky also noted that the fire commissioners might simply have stumbled upon a deal that is too good to pass up.

Including the main firehouse on West Montauk Highway, the Hampton Bays Fire District currently owns three properties in the hamlet, totaling about 9 acres, according to Southampton Town records. The district’s most recent acquisition occurred in 2004, when it purchased land on Ponquogue Avenue that now houses its one substation. That facility opened in October 2008.

The third property that the district owns sits across from the main firehouse and is open space. Southampton Town has expressed interest in possibly acquiring part or all of that land as part of its plans for Good Ground Park.

Stanley Orzechowski, a Nesconset-based attorney who represents the Hampton Bays Fire District, insists that the commissioners are not obligated to share their reasons for wanting to buy the land. He said they can share their intentions once the deal is finalized.

Mr. Orzechowski noted that the five fire commissioners have discussed the pending acquisition among themselves, but only in executive session.

On Monday, The Press filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Hampton Bays Fire District, seeking the minutes from all of the meetings of the board since January. The request was sent via certified mail on Monday afternoon.

Frank Zappone, the deputy supervisor of Southampton Town, said the fire district has not informed the town of its intention to acquire additional land.

Bruce King, a former president of the Hampton Bays Civic Association, said he’s heard rumors that the fire district intends to put up a new building in the near future—though he does not know how the structure would be utilized.

“They already own a lot of land,” Mr. King said, “but I don’t think they are buying land to become landlords.”

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So at least half of the 'voluntary members' of the Hampton Bays fire district are too heavy to climb a ladder...there has not been a real fire in the town for years...and these heroes have no fiscal responsibility of telling Hampton Bays residents how they plan to use public monies. Not surprised especially because a State audit recently criticized financial practices within the district. There is an air of arrogance and privilege that has always existed for this 'voluntary' group. Looking forward ...more
By Peter201 (1), Hampton Bays on Jul 17, 15 9:19 AM
get your facts straight, and understand that these individuals put their life up as collateral on a regular basis, which you clearly are also unaware of. these people go through doors that you wouldnt even dream of going through and you have the tenacity to speak poorly of them? shame on you.
By JMKG228 (12), Southampton on Jul 17, 15 12:55 PM
No one is paying for their health insurance. The pensions were voted on and approved by the residents of the HB Fire District. When did you do a study on the fitness of the volunteers? Last "real" fire was a good one on the corner of Fanning and Ponquoge. Did YOU help put it out? How many accidents scenes at hours that are VERY inconvernient, did you extract someone from a car? Do you raise children with such slanted points of view? You should be ashamed. I am not now nor have I ever been a vollie ...more
By But I'm a blank! (1283), Hampton Bays on Jul 17, 15 4:02 PM
1 member liked this comment
Peter - you really need to check your 'facts'. The volunteers do not have medical insurance paid by the department. The HBFD has responded to 179 calls from January - June 2015. That's an average of a call every day. Every day, those volunteers leave their homes and their families not knowing what they're facing or when they'll be back. And that doesn't include the meetings, the drills, the on-going training, the open houses they host for the community, the fire prevention taught in the schools, ...more
By MrsD (53), Hampton Bays on Jul 20, 15 1:23 PM
Fire Departments receive their funding through taxition of residents in their district. They have a fiduciary responsability to the people who pay them. Full disclosure isnt an option. If they dont remit, it should be fully investigated, perhaps by the Suffolk DA office.
By North Sea Citizen (568), North Sea on Jul 17, 15 9:34 AM
Probably for another clubhouse
By GoldenBoy (351), EastEnd on Jul 17, 15 10:11 AM
Don't forget the alleged 86k a year book keeper. lol
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Jul 17, 15 2:45 PM
peter 201 i hope you never need one of those fire fighters that are too fat to climb a ladder to save you. I bet they would still climb that ladder faster than most to save a loved one of yours or to save you. Im in the emergency service and your ignorance is disgusting. I hope you never have to experience some of the things that the responders have seen/ see. My hopes for you sir is you are able to gain a better respect for this job.
By Sour09 (18), Hampton Bays on Jul 17, 15 6:50 PM
Ps we dont get healthcare.
By Sour09 (18), Hampton Bays on Jul 17, 15 6:51 PM
why the big secret-many people in Hampton Bays already know where the land is located and the plans for it-no responsible tax payer would vote yes without knowing the details, and the Dept would be more forecoming if there is a real need and the price is fair-I'm sure the Press will be printing all the details from un named sources by next week
By westhamptonboy (227), Westhampton on Jul 17, 15 8:55 PM
Peter you ever volunteer?
By Yotut2010 (3), Hampton Bays on Jul 17, 15 9:19 PM
Say what you want about the FD, but who comes when your house is on fire? Whatever perks they get are well earned.
By HB90 (164), southampton on Jul 17, 15 10:10 PM
1 member liked this comment
Spending taxpayer money without accountability is illegal- it is not a "perk"
By PoliticallyIncorrect (45), earth on Jul 18, 15 7:07 AM
1 member liked this comment
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By TheWatcher (1), southampton on Jul 17, 15 11:17 PM
People seem to know what the land is for,please,enlighten me?
By GoldenBoy (351), EastEnd on Jul 18, 15 5:13 AM
Here we go again- a taxpayer funded entity that thinks it doesn't have to tell the taxpayers where it spends their money. This is the height of ignorance and arrogance. If its a legit purchase say what it is- illegally withholding the info from taxpayers makes it seem shady- you already lost my vote if I lived in the district.

And why is there a cool $300k in a "Land acquisition" account? How much is in there and why? Is there a "building" account that you're going to tap after u buy ...more
By PoliticallyIncorrect (45), earth on Jul 18, 15 7:03 AM
1 member liked this comment
Politicallyincorrect what have you done for your community lately besides complaining?
By islander6615 (133), hampton bays on Jul 18, 15 8:32 PM
You probably have done nothing and your parents left you a hedge fund. Typical east ender. I pay taxes and to all the volunteer departments out there thank you. You guys rock. Screw this incompetent civilian
By islander6615 (133), hampton bays on Jul 18, 15 8:34 PM
A hedge fund??!! I don't even know what the feck that is. Im just a hardworking schmuck who is overtaxed and wants to know what my ridiculously high taxes are being used for. Anyone who doesn't care where their money is being spent is an IDIOT and is part of the problem. Wake up or shut up
By PoliticallyIncorrect (45), earth on Jul 19, 15 7:32 AM
This is a simple problem, with a simple solution. Open the books and let the taxpayers know where the moneys going. Even if someone parents 'left them a hedge fund' that doesnt mean someone else can squander the money. Ive lived in HB all my life, and purchased home here a few years ago. Little did I know that there would be a DJ dance party at the firehouse less than 1000 feet from my home. And this 'incompetent civilian' just would like to know whats going on. Frankly with 300k they should buy ...more
By Genuin (26), Hampton Bays on Jul 19, 15 12:37 AM
Nobody's questioning the job the volunteers do. In fact I think they should get more benefits instead of the ridiculous amounts of infrastructure these fire departments are buying. Its funny how some of you think this is okay to keep taxpayer funds a secret. Than you wonder why the taxes are going up. Wake up!
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Jul 19, 15 9:43 AM
1 member liked this comment
Would rather see these piece of crap properties have something done to them instead of sitting there going to waste for homeless people to
Love on. what abou the neptunes beach club? How much taxe money does that bring into the town for us? What about a story on he CPI that is crumpling. The fire department buying land in HB is a minor problem to what is going on in that town. Wake up press. How about the 100 kids a day getting on HB buses to use our school district that don't even live in the ...more
By islander6615 (133), hampton bays on Jul 20, 15 11:20 AM
Typical local politics you are be holding to the taxpayers now some transparency please
By widow gavits (219), sag harbor on Jul 28, 15 4:53 PM