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Jul 6, 2016 11:11 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Westhampton Beach Village Approves Fire District Monopole, Wants To Ditch Siren

Westhampton Beach Trustee Stephen Frano is sworn into office on Tuesday night. BY ERIN MCKINLEY
Jul 6, 2016 12:08 PM

Downtown Westhampton Beach could remain significantly quieter once the new Sunset Avenue firehouse opens later this summer.

At their organizational meeting Tuesday night, Village Board members unanimously approved the installation of a new 100-foot-tall telecommunications monopole at the new $15.7 million firehouse set to open later this summer. However, they held off on permitting the re-installation of the department’s signature siren that, prior to being disconnected when the old firehouse was demolished two years ago, would go off every time an alarm was sounded, between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m., seven days a week, as well as at noon every day.

During a public hearing on the proposal, several trustees, including Mayor Maria Moore, said the siren might not be needed, noting that there are two other sirens within the Westhampton Beach Fire District that can be heard from Main Street—a point that was proven halfway through the hearing when the alarm went off.

She also noted that such a siren is not permitted within the village’s B-1 business district, where the firehouse lies, meaning the Village Board would have to sign off on its installation.

“I think the fact that we haven’t had it in two years really speaks to the fact that we don’t need it,” Ms. Moore said. “If we have been functioning for so long without it, can you really say that we need it?”

But fire district representatives said it would be unwise to not re-install the siren at the main firehouse, saying it serves as an additional alert to volunteers who typically rely on pagers to learn about alarms. William Glass, an attorney representing the fire district, said that nearly all of the department’s volunteers have complained, at some point over the past two years, that they have missed calls due to the missing siren.

The siren, Mr. Glass added, also alerts people in the area that volunteers are on the way to the firehouse and that emergency vehicles will soon be on the road.

On Tuesday, Village Trustee Rob Rubio questioned whether a lower-decibel siren could be used instead. The problem with that idea, according to Mr. Glass, is that the fire district does not want to incur the cost of paying for a new one. Presently, the fire district is seeking permission to install its old siren on the new monopole and about 45 feet in the air.

“Let’s be realistic,” Mr. Rubio said. “I walked through and it is a beautiful building, and they did a great job, but we are talking about safety and warning people, so maybe they should have given up the $50,000 stove and purchased a $50,000 siren. I’m just weighing out how much money was spent on the firehouse—we should have gone with what is needed.”

Toward the end of the hearing, Westhampton Beach Fire District Commissioner Victor Levy suggested a meeting between the commissioners and Village Board members, adding that right now the priority is on installing the communication pole itself. As soon as the installation is finished, fire district officials can turn on the facility’s new communication system and move into the two-story building. Volunteers are still using the department’s Seabreeze Avenue substation as its main headquarters.

The trustees agreed with that idea, saying they’d like to discuss the matter further with fire commissioners before signing off on the new monopole—but not before adding a condition stating that, as of right now, the siren cannot be re-installed. The metal communications pole, which will be painted bronze, will be located roughly 5 feet from the southeastern corner of the new firehouse. It measures 22 inches, or just under 2 feet, at its base before thinning out to about 12.5 inches at its top. Once installed, the tower will allow a 3.3-mile radius from Sunset Avenue, covering the entire district.

The monopole will be used strictly by the fire department, meaning that the fire district has no plans to eventually lease space to cellphone carriers, according to Chris Barletta of Sandpebble Builders in Southampton, the construction manager for the new firehouse.

“I agree that there should be a siren on the building, but there is new technology where we don’t have to have a fire whistle every time there is a call,” Mr. Rubio said. “I have a siren across from my shop, and that thing is loud—deafening.”

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