The Lido and Point Lookout Fire District's request for a $7 million bond so it can renovate firehouses has garnered resistance from residents who said the project is too expensive and too large.
Some in the barrier island hamlets also oppose the project because it would result in the demolition of the district's 82-year-old Ye Olde Firehouse, which was heavily damaged by superstorm Sandy.
Residents will vote July 9 on the 23-year bond, which would add $165.48 per year to the current fire district property tax bill of a home with a market value of $600,000. The bond would allow the district to upgrade two of its buildings, which are more than 45 years old, "to modern standards," Fire Commissioner Andy Richter has said.
But Point Lookout resident Joe Staudt said the district needs "a plan B when this fails, if this fails," and that the alternate plan should be smaller. The project promises expanded public space, district officials have said, but Staudt said it might not be necessary.
"There's only so much space we need to have a party in this town," Staudt said of Point Lookout, which is about 10 blocks long.
Richter said he does not believe there's "any fat" in the proposal, and that the district does not have a backup plan if it fails. Fire Commissioner Jack Paz said he believes the community can be sold on renovating the two firehouses, but demolishing Ye Olde Firehouse is unpopular because of its historic value.
He said maintaining the aging firehouse "is not economically feasible."
The total project would cost $7.5 million, with $500,000 coming from capital reserves, fire officials have said.
The money would be used to expand the Main Firehouse from about 5,000 square feet to about 10,700 square feet, district officials have said. The Lido Firehouse would expand by 2,228 square feet, to about 8,000 square feet, district officials have said. Ye Olde Firehouse would make way for a new, 1,900-square-foot command center, officials said.
All three firehouses suffered damage in superstorm Sandy, but only Ye Olde Firehouse was rendered unusable. The fire district owns one other building, a "rescue house" that is used to house an ambulance, and the district has not decided what to do with it, fire officials have said.
"This is not a lot of money," Lido Beach resident Mike Fichtelman said. "This is about life and death."
But Point Lookout resident Chris McGrath, who called the proposal "the Cadillac plan," said the fire district needs a less-expensive alternate plan.
"The plan looks so beautiful, I was a little surprised there wasn't an alternative plan," McGrath said.
The vote is scheduled from 4 to 9 p.m. on July 9 at the Main and Lido firehouses.