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More money sought from Rocky Point residents to finish firehouse

The North Shore Beach firehouse on King Road

The North Shore Beach firehouse on King Road in Rocky Point, seen on Oct. 6, is 75% complete, officials say. Credit: James Carbone

A new Rocky Point firehouse that is nearing completion needs an additional $1 million to cover final construction costs that ballooned in part because of delays that officials blame on the coronavirus pandemic.

Residents will vote Tuesday on whether to approve the extra money, which fire district officials say is critical to finish the project by the end of the year. If approved, the additional $1 million would add about $17 to $18 a year to the average fire district tax bill, officials said.

The new firehouse, which is about 75% complete, would replace the department's North Shore Beach Co. 2 on King Road, which has been demolished. Officials said the razed substation was cramped and obsolete.

Fire district officials said cash flow problems began after residents in August 2017 voted 204-197 to approve a $7.25 million bond to build the new firehouse. Bids for construction materials were higher than budgeted, and delays related to the pandemic drove up costs even more, officials said.

"We have found that things that we were originally told were going to come in at a certain number were coming in much higher," said Dave Brewer, vice chairman of the board of fire commissioners, adding that attempts to rein in costs were fruitless. "It just didn’t happen. The costs were far greater than what we anticipated."

The project's original construction manager was fired for providing bad estimates, Brewer said.

Construction was halted for about two weeks this spring by shutdowns related to the statewide "pause" ordered by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. When work resumed, it was slowed about two months by delays in deliveries of building materials, Brewer said.

Costs also rose because some contractors on the project went out of business because of the pandemic, officials said. For example, a new roofing contract cost the district $272,500 — 49% more than the $182,650 contract awarded to a now defunct roofing contractor, Brewer said.

During a virtual community forum Wednesday night, fire district officials answered written questions submitted by unidentified residents. Some residents asked about potential funding alternatives, such as selling unused district property or seeking grants.

District officials said those options were impractical because construction must be completed soon. They said trucks and equipment being stored at the former Thurber Lumber yard in Rocky Point must be moved because that site soon will be part of a separate construction project.

"I don’t know what we would do," if the bond fails, Brewer said in an interview. "We’re in a very difficult situation right now. We’re just appealing to the public to help us finish this building."

Some Rocky Point residents said they will reluctantly vote in favor of spending the additional money, despite questions over the district's management of the project.

"I don’t think you can have an unfinished firehouse, so I would like to see them finish it," said Suzanne Johnson, a retired library director. "And I hope that they’re right that their [new] construction management company is giving them good advice. ... They tore the old building down. I know they need it."

Voting is 3 to 9 p.m. at the district’s Shoreham substation, 49 Route 25A.

Seeing red

Rocky Point fire officials are asking voters to approve an additional $1 million for a new $7.25 million firehouse to replace the King Road substation.

Here's a comparison of the old substation, which was demolished last year, and the new one, being constructed next door.

Original firehouse

Built: 1950s

Size: About 10,000 square feet

Problems: Lack of space for equipment and larger trucks, narrow spaces between truck bays, inefficient heating and ventilation, lack of accessibility for disabled residents

New firehouse

Built: 2019-2020

Size: 11,422 square feet

Improvements: More space for trucks and equipment, energy-efficient heating and air-conditioning, elevator, handicap-accessible bathrooms

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