Brookhaven Town has voted to fund a new headquarters for the South Country Ambulance District in East Patchogue that will cost up to $17 million.
The unanimous decision at a board meeting last Thursday came after town officials received a 100-page report prepared by Melville-based engineering consultant H2M that found the district's current headquarters are cramped and outdated.
Some district residents had criticized the plan for a new facility, saying town officials should instead renovate the current structure.
District officials said three antiquated buildings used to store equipment and respond to emergency calls could be consolidated into the new building. The 26,000-square-foot, energy-efficient building would include new equipment, training space and a decontamination area.
"It's desperately needed to protect volunteers," said Gregory Miglino Jr., chief and manager of the district. "This will serve as a lifesaving beacon for the next 75 to 100 years."
Property taxes for homeowners in the district would increase $95 annually, officials said.
"After looking at it, the needs and what they are putting forward, it's more than justifiable," Town Councilwoman Connie Kepert said.
But Bellport Village resident Sherry Binnington, 71, said she is worried about increased traffic and higher taxes.
"If a building is needed, that's one thing," she said during an interview at the meeting. "But I'm not in favor of the size, cost and location."
The H2M report found that the current headquarters -- a former Hagerman Fire Department facility that is at least 50 years old -- would need its roof repaired, is too small and outdated and would cost at least $11 million to renovate. The firm said it would cost about $1.5 million to temporarily relocate to a different building while the existing facility was rebuilt.
Town officials said further details about the project, such as a traffic study and possibly reconsidering the proposed location, would come later.
The ambulance company is the largest emergency medical service district in Brookhaven Town, responding to 3,000 calls annually in Bellport Village, East Patchogue, Hagerman, South Yaphank and parts of Fire Island. It has an annual $1.56 million operating budget, 126 volunteers and is responsible for 41,000 residents.