The Brookhaven Town Board is expected to decide Thursday whether it will pay up to $17 million to construct a new headquarters for the South Country Ambulance District in North Bellport.

Town officials on Monday said they planned to put the controversial agenda item on Thursday's decision calendar with a likely vote on funding the project. If approved, officials said further details about the project would come at a later date.

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"The building is necessary. This is the right time at the right cost for the community," said Gregory Miglino Jr., chief and manager of the district, after Monday's work session meeting. "Our only disappointment is that the process has been dragged out."

Opponents say the project is too expensive and that alternative measures, such as repairing current buildings, are viable options. More than 300 people attended a three-hour public hearing on the proposed project in July.

The 26,000-square-foot, energy-efficient building would include new equipment, training space and a decontamination area. Miglino has said the company currently uses three outdated buildings to respond to emergency calls that could be consolidated into the new building.

The ambulance company is the largest emergency medical service district in Brookhaven Town, responding to 3,000 emergency 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.

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South Country does not have a board of commissioners, leaving town board members as its de facto governing body.A bond sale would finance the project. Property taxes for homeowners in the district would increase $95 annually if the project is approved.The district was named New York State EMS agency of the year in 2001, town officials said. It was also awarded Suffolk County EMS agency of the year in 2000 and 2001, town officials said.