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St. James voters reject $12.25M bond measure for new fire HQ

A public hearing at the Jefferson Avenue Firehouse

A public hearing at the Jefferson Avenue Firehouse in St. James on Aug. 29, 2017, focused on a proposal to build a new headquarters building. The vote on the plan takes place Tuesday. Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

Voters in St. James rejected a $12.25 million bond proposal Tuesday that would have replaced the hamlet’s Jefferson Avenue fire house with a larger, 22,000-square-foot fire department headquarters.

The bond proposal lost by a vote of 775-459, officials said.

St. James Fire District commissioners had said the state of its two firehouses had become a safety issue for both firefighters and residents, aggravated by layout problems that interfered with the department’s response to emergency calls.

Some St. James residents had complained about the tax burden of the proposed project.

After the results were announced Tuesday night, the commissioners released a statement vowing to “regroup and begin discussions of what our next steps might be. We will continue to respond to all emergencies in the quickest manner possible, as it is our duty and privilege to protect the residents of St. James.”

Had voters approved the proposal, the existing fire house would have been demolished.

The new building would have housed all fire district operations and included meeting rooms, offices, a kitchen and a recreation room.

District officials have said they will sell the department’s older Route 25A firehouse.

The project’s bond funding would have raised the fire district property tax rate by about 37 percent, to $145.44 per $1,000 of assessed value.

The St. James Fire Department, which is primarily staffed by volunteers, protects about 4,500 homes. The department answered 1,298 emergency calls in 2016 and is on pace to top that number this year, according to district officials.

In 2013, residents rejected an $8.75 million bond to expand firehouses by a 457-96 vote.

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