The Westhampton Beach Fire District will ask voters Tuesday to increase property taxes to replace its existing 1953 firehouse with a new $15.7 million station that would double the size of the current one.
The firehouse on Sunset Avenue is too small to accommodate some of the department's trucks, said district board of commissioners chairman Fred Overton. Narrow bays offer little clearance for other fire trucks, plus there are cracks in the concrete and electrical upgrades are needed, he said.
"I'm not saying you have to build this building, but I'm saying something has to be done," Bill Glass, the district's attorney, told residents at an informational meeting last week.
Resident Jerry Shanley said the new firehouse would cost more than the recently constructed Village Hall and library combined.
"Where else on Long Island are you going to find a $16 million firehouse being built right now?" Shanley said. He did, though, declare the proposed new station "a beautiful building" and praised firefighters for their performance.
A new 20-year bond would replace an existing one that will be paid off in 2018, district treasurer Carol Nemeth said. The tax rate would rise 53 percent, from 32 cents to 49 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, she said. The tax increase would average about $115 a year on a $600,000 house, she said.
The total fire district tax would be $265, Nemeth said.
The district encompasses Westhampton Beach, Westhampton and Quiogue, and has a fire protection contract with West Hampton Dunes.
The cost of the new firehouse had been estimated recently at $14.5 million. Victor Canseco, principal of project construction manager Sandpebble Builders, said it had increased because of additional work the district requested, along with rising material costs. He warned that replacing or upgrading the current building would become more expensive if voters don't pass the tax measure.
Another resident, Patrick Fenton, said at the meeting that he thought most residents didn't know about the proposal, and many of those who will be paying taxes had yet to come out for the summer.
But fire district officials said they have tried to get the word out by informing civic groups in the area, posting legal notices and holding a series of informational meetings.
The fire district said it decided to hold the vote after Memorial Day, to accommodate some of the summer residents.
But, fire commissioners said, it was difficult to get residents to turn out to meetings.
Canseco said his company, which would receive $691,000 from the project, also would serve as the general contractor, saving the project money. Smaller portions of the firehouse construction, like pouring concrete and spackling, would be bid out. Sandpebble did not have to bid on the project because it was exempt as it was providing a professional service, he said.
The firm was the contractor on the Village Hall and library, and was known by the community, Canseco said.
WESTHAMPTON BEACH FIREHOUSE
Current firehouse square footage: 12,300 square feet
Proposed new square footage: 27,000 square feet
Shortcomings of old building, according to fire district:
-- Limited vehicle clearance
-- Existing concrete floors cracking
-- No dedicated bunker gear room
-- No ADA access to second floor
-- Leaking roof
-- Electrical wiring needs to be replaced
-- Existing building not energy efficient, code compliant