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Gordon Heights fire foes call study stall tactic

Anti-tax activists oppose Brookhaven Town's decision to hire a consulting firm to study the potential dissolution of the Gordon Heights Fire District, saying the move will extend by at least seven months an already protracted attempt to dissolve Long Island's most heavily taxed fire district.

A group of Gordon Heights residents has pushed for the dissolution of the 900-home district - where annual fire district taxes average more than $1,300 per household - for more than four years. Town officials announced in October that they will host a public hearing, and later vote, on the district's future.

The public hearing was mandated when residents submitted a petition signed by people who collectively own 51 percent of the district's assessed value, town officials have said.

But in a statement released Wednesday, they said the hearing will not happen until after a private firm, Emergency Services Consulting International of Oregon, provides the town "with the information necessary to make a determination on the future" of the district.

ESCI will be paid about $91,000 and is expected to start work next month, spending at least six months studying the town's options, officials said.

Opponents of the district, including Gordon Heights resident Rosalie Hanson, said they consider the consultant's report a stalling tactic and a waste of taxpayer money.

"The more the town finds ways to stall . . . the more money it costs this community through legal fees and killer fire taxes," Hanson said.

Town board member Connie Kepert, who represents the area, said the consultant will help the town determine the most cost-effective fire service to the area. She said she expects the report to detail options such as consolidating the Gordon Heights district with a neighboring fire district or reconfiguring the boundaries of two or more districts to include Gordon Heights.

"There's a plethora of options they will be studying," she said. "I didn't want the board to be put in the position of making what really is a monumental decision without the facts."

James Kelly, a district fire commissioner, said fire officials will cooperate with the consultants. He added: "What we need to do is be mindful of the support that the fire department is giving the community."

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