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Gordon Heights Fire District may be dissolved

Firefighter Carter Brown, right, and fire chief Erton

Firefighter Carter Brown, right, and fire chief Erton Rudder stand inside the Gordon Heights Fire District station. (Jan. 15, 2010) Credit: Ed Betz

After months of fielding urgent pleas from Gordon Heights residents, Brookhaven Town announced Wednesday it must host a public hearing in which residents will weigh in on whether the town should dissolve the Gordon Heights Fire District.

Shuttering the district would be the first dissolution of a fire district in state history, town officials said.

The 900-home district is the state's most-taxed fire district, with annual taxes that average more than $1,300 per household. A group of residents has asked the town to hold a hearing to close the district and find another way to provide fire service.

Town officials have determined that a petition submitted by residents was signed by people who collectively own 51 percent of the district's assessed value, Supervisor Mark Lesko said. That means the town must hold the hearing, he said, although no date has been set.

Lesko said the town must first conduct a study to determine the cost of dissolving the district. He said he expects the process to take months. "The study is critical because we need someone to give us a neutral, objective opinion on what the financial impact is going to be," Lesko said.

Gordon Heights district officials declined to comment on the hearing. Some defenders of the district have said it has historic value because it was Suffolk's first all-black force, founded in the 1940s.

Rosalie Hanson, a Gordon Heights resident who has pushed for the town to eliminate the district, said she hopes the study "is balanced and unbiased and that a fair outcome is graciously accepted in the best interest of the taxpayers."

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