More than 300 people attended a public hearing on the proposed construction of a $13 million headquarters for the South Country Ambulance District in North Bellport.

With interest rates from a 20-year bond, costs are expected to balloon to $17 million, town officials said.

The 31/2-hour public hearing on Thursday was at times contentious, resulting in four public safety officers twice escorting Michael Jaycox, 50, of East Patchogue from a speaking table after he refused to stop making his case to the board.

Council members Thursday night left public comments open for 10 days for further input.

The 26,000-square-foot, energy-efficient building would include new equipment, training space and a decontamination area.

Gregory Miglino Jr., chief and manager of the district, said the company uses three buildings to respond to emergency calls that could be consolidated into the new building.

The current buildings are outdated, too small and have electrical and plumbing issues, Miglino said at the meeting.

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"I don't think a new facility is asking for too much," said Assemb. Dean Murray (R-East Patchogue). "I trust their leadership, and I trust their professionalism. . . . If they need a new building, then that need is a reality."

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 and Great South Bay.

It has an annual $1.56 million operating budget, 126 volunteers and is responsible for 41,000 residents.

Opponents said the project is too expensive and that alternative measures, such as repairing current buildings, are viable options.

Brookhaven Town resident James Carey, who has sued Brookhaven to block the project, described the ambulance district as a "private company" and said Brookhaven should have chosen the architects and engineers for the project.

South Country does not have a board of commissioners, leaving town board members as its de facto governing body.

Property taxes for homeowners in the district would increase $95 annually if the project is approved.

The majority of those who came out for Thursday's meeting were in support of constructing a new facility.

"I believe they need a new building," said Jim Vaughan, captain of the fire police in Bellport. "How can you put a price on health, safety and welfare? They're doing a fantastic job."

Some, however, voiced their frustration about the proposal to elected officials.

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About 90 minutes into the hearing, public safety officers twice escorted Jaycox from a speaking table as he voiced his displeasure that the town was not more directly involved in the project and that Miglino shouldn't have a dual role with the ambulance company.

Jaycox spoke 11 minutes beyond his allotted five-minute speaking time.

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.