Brookhaven ambulance districts to boost aging facilities

From left to right: Tom Nouza, Alicia Schall,

From left to right: Tom Nouza, Alicia Schall, Amber Chittum, and 2nd assistant chief Robert Harford are shown with the Shirley Ambulance Company's newest ambulance outside their old garage, as construction on a $3 million expansion project continues behind them. (Jan. 24, 2014) (Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan )

The Mastic and Shirley ambulance districts plan to spend $9 million for expansion projects that Brookhaven Town officials say will improve aging facilities and better protect residents.

A third ambulance district, in Mastic Beach, is considering spending $6 million to move its operations from 180 Whittier Dr. to a vacant grocery store at Elder Drive and Neighborhood Road that would be remodeled.

Ambulance districts operate under Brookhaven Town jurisdiction, allowing it to fund improvement projects through bond proposals. Residents living in those districts would pay for the costs in their taxes. The Mastic district has a $6 million budget, and the Shirley ambulance district has a $3 million budget.


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Brookhaven Town Deputy Supervisor Dan Panico, who represents the three districts, said many of the town's ambulance companies have outgrown their buildings and the improvement projects are overdue.

"It's for a variety of reasons," he said of the expansions. "But a lot of these companies have buildings that don't fit the equipment. Many of them are very old and were created at the same time."

The Shirley and Mastic Beach districts were both formed about 35 years ago. Shirley has three ambulances and about 50 volunteers. Mastic Beach has four ambulances. Mastic did not return calls asking for information about the district.

The Mastic Beach proposal to renovate and move into the vacant store would increase homeowners' tax bills by about $60 per year, officials said.

"There are going to be a lot of questions regarding this," said Mastic Beach resident Jane Powers. "I think they're going to have a hard time when this really gets rolling. People aren't anxious to pay more taxes."

An increase in emergency calls requires the upgrading of district buildings as well as vehicles, officials said. Shirley Community Ambulance received about 1,500 calls last year, an increase of 5 percent to 10 percent over the previous year, Fire Chief James Deutsch said.

Mastic, Mastic Beach and Shirley ambulance services also need parking bays for first responder vehicles, instead of leaving them stored outside as is done now, officials said.

"Leaving ambulances outside is not ideal," Panico said, noting that outside parking threatens medicines stored in emergency vehicles that need to be kept at set temperatures to remain effective when used.

Mastic's renovation will add 12,000 square feet of space over what the ambulance district now uses. It's targeted for completion in September.

Shirley's renovation, to be finished by year's end, involves demolishing an old garage, adding a training center and improving the building's fire detection system.

Mastic Beach's plan needs Brookhaven Town Board approval.

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