Lido firehouse expansion bond rejected

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Voters in the Lido and Point Lookout Fire District overwhelmingly rejected a $7-million bond proposal early Wednesday that would have allowed the district to repair and expand firehouses damaged in superstorm Sandy.

The bond's defeat also means the 82-year-old Ye Olde Firehouse, which the proposal's opponents wanted to preserve -- will not be demolished.

The proposal failed 758-260, said Andy Richter, a district commissioner. The bond would have allowed the fire district, located on Long Beach barrier island, to expand its Main and Lido firehouses by a combined total of nearly 8,000 square feet.

Richter said it was unclear whether the district would offer a new proposal. "Very disappointed, but the people have spoken," he said.

The bond would have taken 23 years to pay off and would have added $165.48 per year to the property tax bill of a home with a market value of $600,000, district officials have said.

The proposal was the subject of much debate -- and two well-attended public meetings -- in the community.

Fire district officials and supporters of the proposal said the bond was necessary because the Main and Lido buildings were damaged during Sandy and are in need of modernization. All district buildings are more than 45 years old and not equipped to handle modern fire equipment, officials have said.

But opponents said the price tag was too high. Many also said they did not want to lose Ye Olde Firehouse, which was built by fire department members during the Great Depression.

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The entire project would have cost $7.5 million between the bond and district reserves.

The project would have expanded the Main Firehouse by about 5,700 square feet, to about 10,700 square feet, and Lido Firehouse by about 2,200 square feet, to about 8,000 square feet, and provided mechanical upgrades to both, officials have said.

The district also would have replaced Ye Olde Firehouse with a 1,900-square-foot command center as part of the bond, district officials have said.

Modernizing the Ye Olde Firehouse would likely cost $4 million on its own, Richter has said.

Lido Beach resident Liz Murdy said before the vote that she hoped it would pass. "I feel that it's nostalgia that may be swaying some people," she said.

But Lido Beach resident Elihu Blotnick said the defeat of the bond could give rise to a new plan the communities can support.

"Given the mandate, we have the opportunity now to create change in the best interests of the entire community," Blotnick said.

The election was open to residents of the Lido and Point Lookout Fire District, which covers the hamlets of Lido Beach and Point Lookout.

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