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Sep 30, 2009 1:10 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Public questions the need for new firehouse

Sep 30, 2009 1:10 PM

At a question-and-answer session held in the Southampton Village Fire Department’s Hampton Road firehouse on September 23, members of the audience wanted to know exactly why the firefighters need the $5.9 million new facility they are proposing, how much it will cost taxpayers, and exactly what it will look like.

“It will look better than the new post office,” Southampton Village Mayor Mark Epley joked, when questioned about the landscaping surrounding the facility.

In anticipation of the upcoming October 9 bond vote, the fire department and Southampton Village held a forum last week so that the public could air any grievances or ask questions about the proposed new firehouse, which is more than three times the size of the current structure. The village, which provides funding for the fire department, is asking voters to approve the bond so that it can begin work on the project, which involves demolishing the current house. Village officials hope construction work will begin as soon as early spring.

If the project is approved by voters, a village resident whose home is assessed at $1 million would see a property tax increase of $48 a year, or $4 per month.

“This house was built in 1959,” Dan Guzewicz of Southampton said in reference to the current Hampton Road firehouse. “How long will this house last?”

Southampton Village Fire Department Chief Roy “Buddy” Wines said that the proposed firehouse was designed with the future in mind. The design allows for the easy addition of three bays, if necessary, he explained.

The proposed firehouse, which is 14,500 square feet, features four bays for the village’s fire trucks, as well as a multipurpose room, a conference room, and a gear room where firefighters would be able to gear up before heading to a blaze, according to documents provided by Southampton Village. The current firehouse is around 4,000 square feet and features two bays.

“I wouldn’t be comfortable giving the house to the public if it didn’t plan for the future,” Chief Wines said at another point in the meeting. “We don’t want to have to come back and redo this in 15, 20 years.”

The house also allows for the possibility of Southampton Fire Department having paid members, as a portion of the upstairs can be converted to bunk space, explained Dominic LaPierre, the architect from Ashley McGraw Architects in Aquebogue who is working on the project.
Mr. LaPierre added that, instead of Hampton Road, the firehouse bays will open up onto Narrow Lane.

“A lot of people assume we just want bigger toys, bigger things to play with,” Chief Wines said, explaining that the firehouse is necessary because fire trucks have grown in size since the 1960s and that the current structure does not meet many fire codes or federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration guidelines.

Susan Stevenson of Southampton asked officials why the village opted to revamp the Hampton Road firehouse as opposed to the Windmill Lane house.

“Who decided this and why?” Ms. Stevenson asked, adding that the Hampton Road firehouse is near two schools.

Mr. Epley explained that the firehouse is not in the flood zone, an asset in the event of a storm, and emphasized that the department owns the property the firehouse is situated on, which makes building costs cheaper.

“It’s our responsibility to do this house,” Mr. Epley said.

The proposed firehouse is the third version the village has considered. The first, proposed by the department 18 months ago, was 26,000 square feet and more than $10 million. One year ago, a 14,000-square-foot $7 million structure was proposed. The current plans are the result of the fire department asking the architect to whittle the structure down to the cheapest possible design.

Jay Diesing, the president of the Southampton Association, a civic group, asked how the Southampton Fire District has responded to the proposition. The fire district contracts with the department to receive fire protection services.

“We haven’t seen opposition or support from the district,” Mr. Epley said.

Ms. Stevenson also wanted to know how much the village spent on the public relations firm who put together the flyers and information on the bond vote. Mr. Epley said it cost $17,000.

Ms. Stevenson explained that the flyers for the question-and-answer session were misleading because they did not mention that the vote on the house would be on October 9.

The costs of heating and cooling the building were also important to Ms. Stevenson, as she questioned how utilities would change with the new structure. Mr. Epley, however, explained that because the firehouse will be Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified, the village will see a 30 to 40-percent savings in energy costs between the current house and the proposed one.

Pat Maloney of Southampton asked whether or not the firehouse would be lit with bright, glaring lights. Mr. Epley replied that all lighting would be compliant with the “dark skies” outdoor lighting regulations and not intrusive to neighbors.

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Let's roll with this -- definitely needed, and modest compared to first proposal.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Sep 29, 09 12:54 PM
Definately needed!!!! Out of all the building proposals taking place in Southampton...FINALLY one that will Benefit the people of the communities and provide safety to the community and develope new leadership of young men and women to enrich our community! Thank-You!
By UNITED states CITIZEN (207), SOUTHAMPTON on Oct 1, 09 6:11 AM
The town has grown and along with it the equipment needs of our brave volunteers. Build them the firehouse they need. Its the least the towns people can do for our very large unpaid highly skilled volunteer emergency personal. Just imagine if the force were paid then you will have a tax bill to complain about!
By North Sea Citizen (568), North Sea on Oct 1, 09 6:47 AM
I don't know if most residents know but SFD is one of the most professional FD's around. For you part time residents the service you recieve is equal if not better than what you get in the city from a paid dept. SFD deserves a new firehouse.

Fire protection needs to grow with the community. If the village and town want to continue to allow more subdivisions/mcmansions and the like then the FD needs to add additional apparatus to meet federal guidelines for fire protection.

Our ...more
By politcal pawn (121), Flanders on Oct 4, 09 8:20 PM
This firehouse is certainly needed. SFD deserves it and the new firehouse is relatively cheap compared to what other fire departments have spent on new firehouses recently. The Chiefs and SH Village have done alot of homework and research to bring the cost of the firehouse down as much as they could.

27 East- In your pictures, you have Dennis Roy named as "Captain Dennis Roy". That is incorrect, he is now the 2nd Assistant Chief of Southampton Fire Department
By SH Local (8), Southampton on Oct 5, 09 12:53 PM
Thanks for the correction. The caption has been fixed.
By BOReilly (135), Hampton Bays on Oct 5, 09 1:23 PM