First Assistant Chief Mike McCloud talks to resident Carol Marko...

First Assistant Chief Mike McCloud talks to resident Carol Marko about Lindenhurst's firehouse. (May 1, 2011) Credit: STEVE PFOST

The roof of the Lindenhurst firehouse leaks. The front wall is obscured by scaffolding, for fear that parts of it might fall off. Out back is the boiler -- older than some of the firefighters -- that in theory supplies the building's heat; when it broke last winter, the night crew huddled in an ambulance for warmth.

"It's horrible," said Ron Tappen, captain of the firehouse's rescue company. "It's just getting worse and worse every year."

These tales of misery came out of an open house that department and village officials held Sunday at the South Wellwood Avenue firehouse in an attempt to convince residents that the 89-year-old building needs replacing, not repairing.

The village is leaning toward razing the structure and building a slightly larger one at the same location, Mayor Thomas Brennan has said. It would be slightly larger, in part to accommodate modern fire engines and ambulances. The new building, which would cost $4 million to $5 million, would be paid for by a bond issue, though federal and state grant money could help offset the cost. A $7.5 million bond issue to build a station at a different location was overwhelmingly rejected by voters in 2008.

Last year, the firehouse handled about 2,200 calls. Firefighters have long argued that the cramped conditions slow their response times. A recent engineering report, commissioned by the village, says that portions of the building are "unstable and at risk of complete collapse."

Village resident Dorothy Delisa said conditions were "depressing" but said she wasn't sure if taxpayer dollars should go toward a replacement. William McGraw, a third-generation resident who said his grandfather was village mayor around the time the firehouse was built, said he'd support building a new one: "No doubt about it," he said. "We're asking men and women to risk their lives to go out and fight fires at 2 o'clock in the morning . . . It's grossly unfair."

The 2008 proposal to build a 17,000-square-foot firehouse at South Travis Street off East Gates Avenue failed, coming on the heels of a building boom by fire districts across Suffolk.

Critics called some of those "super" firehouses too lavish. But John Palermo, chairman of the Lindenhurst Fire Department's building committee, said there were no plans to build a "Taj Mahal." What is needed, he said, is a building big enough for two bays of modern trucks, offices and a meeting room. "We just need some place where we can conduct business," he said.

The village board will hold a public hearing on the matter at 7 p.m. May 19.

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