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Lindenhurst firehouse plan will lift taxes

Rendering of new Lindenhurst Village firehouse on Wellwood

Rendering of new Lindenhurst Village firehouse on Wellwood Avenue by Jeffrey Sendlewski. Photo Credit: Jeffrey Sendlewski

Lindenhurst Village officials plan to knock down the deteriorating main firehouse and replace it with a larger building that will be paid for with a $6-million bond, resulting in a tax increase.

The announcement came Tuesday night at a public forum that culminated a more than yearlong evaluation of whether the fire department's main building on Wellwood Avenue was salvageable. The assessment included the formation of a committee made up of civic, village and fire officials and involved the hiring of two engineering firms and an architectural consultant.

The firehouse, built in 1923, suffered severe fire damage in 1978. Fire and village officials said that while it is centrally located, the building is too small for modern trucks, and the existing vehicles had to be customized at high cost to fit inside. Most companies no longer customize, said Chief Michael DeGregorio.

In January 2011, a report issued by ECG Engineering Llc of Smithtown indicated that repairing the structure bordered "on impossible." But in August, a study by Melville's H2M found that "critical structural components remain stable and salvageable."

The village sought a third opinion, from architect Marty Sendlewski of Riverhead, who specializes in firehouses and who said a turning point in his assessment came when he tore away walls to find that steel girders supporting the building are almost completely eroded.

"We tried everything, but at that point we realized there was no way we could save this building," he said.

The proposed new building, which officials estimate could be completed in early 2014, will add several thousand square feet of space, widening north into the address occupied by the Old Village Hall Museum, which will be relocated, said Mayor Thomas Brennan.

Although grants and green building technologies are expected to help offset costs, village officials plan to issue a $6-million bond for the building, said Shawn Cullinane, village administrator clerk-treasurer. A 30-year bond at a "worst-case scenario" 4 percent interest rate would result in an extra $39.70 on an average resident's annual tax bill, he said.

In 2008, the village proposed building a firehouse on another site with a $7.5-million bond. Residents soundly rejected it in a vote, and officials abandoned the idea.

This bond will not be put up for a vote, village officials said. According to state law, residents have 30 days from the time a bond resolution is passed to stop it by gathering the signatures of 5 percent of the total resident vote cast in the last state general election.

Many residents who turned out for the forum expressed support for the new firehouse, though some balked at the tax increase, saying it would be a hardship for those on fixed incomes.

"Is your safety more important than $40 a year?" Brennan replied, adding that the village would look into payment plans for those who are struggling.

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