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Coram fire district puts up vote on $2.9 million substation expansion

Rendering of a proposed Coram Fire District substation

Rendering of a proposed Coram Fire District substation expansion. Residents will vote Tuesday on a $2.8 million bond to pay for the project.

Coram fire district residents will go to the polls Tuesday to vote on a $2.9 million substation expansion that officials say is needed to accommodate larger trucks and improve safety for first responders.

The fire district wants to expand its station 2, on the southeast corner of Route 112 and Pine Road, by about 46 percent, from the current 4,913 square feet to 7,192 square feet. The expansion would allow the firehouse to expand from four truck bays to five, as well as help the district replace aging windows, doors, floors and the roof.

Coram's 120 firefighters and 10 emergency medical technicians currently work in cramped spaces, often changing into fire gear inches away from moving trucks, officials said. In addition, bay doors are very narrow for the station's three fire trucks and one ambulance, leaving only a few inches between trucks and door frames as the vehicles leave the firehouse. 

“The roof is in dire need of being replaced," fire Commissioner James Brown said in an interview. "The apparatus floor is crumbling. It’s got a lot of cracks … The same with the doors and windows.”

The project, if approved, would increase annual fire district taxes on the average home by about $42.80, fire officials said. They could not estimate a percentage tax hike for the average home.

The total cost of the project is $2.975 million. Voters are being asked to approve $2.825 million in bonds to finance most of the construction. The remaining $150,000 would come from a fire district reserve account.

The firehouse, built in 1976, was designed for an earlier era when firefighters typically rode on the backs of trucks while responding to calls, said Martin Sendlewski, the Riverhead architect who designed the expansion. Federal requirements mandate firefighters ride in "crew caps," or covered compartments, which has been one factor in the increased size of fire trucks in recent years, he said.

Coram Civic Association President Erma Gluck said the organization, which posted an official notice of the vote on its website, supports the bond. She said she agrees that the substation is too small for its equipment.

"The building at that location is very old and definitely needs updating," she said in an email. "It's very important when it comes to saving lives in a fire that the proper equipment is available to store in a firehouse location."

Another Coram resident, Mike Caggiano, said he was “not inclined” to vote for the project, saying he struggled to learn details of the proposal. He said he could not find information about the vote on the district's social media page. 

"I pay twice as much for the Coram Fire Department in my taxes than I do for the Suffolk County police,” Caggiano said in an interview. “We’re buying equipment that’s bigger and bigger.” 

Voting will be held from 3 to 9 p.m. Tuesday at the fire district office, 303 Middle Country Rd., Coram.

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