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Lido, Point Lookout residents split on firehouse plan

(Left to right) Ex-Fire Commissioner Mark Goldsmith, Julie

(Left to right) Ex-Fire Commissioner Mark Goldsmith, Julie Dirolf, Point Lookout Fire Commissioner Jack Paz, Lido Beach Fire Commissioner Andy Richter, Liz Murdy and Mike Fichtelman are some of those urging their community to vote on a $7 million fire department bond resolution that would allow the district to upgrade and rebuild some of their buildings. (July 3, 2013) Credit: Alejandra Villa

Residents of the barrier island communities of Point Lookout and Lido Beach are split over a plan to reconstruct their local fire district's buildings, and the concerns will come to a head in a Tuesday bond vote.

The Lido and Point Lookout Fire District proposal would use a $7-million bond -- up for a vote Tuesday -- to expand its Main and Lido firehouses by nearly 8,000 combined square feet and demolish the 82-year-old Ye Olde Firehouse.

Fire district officials and supporters of the proposal say the bond is necessary because the Main and Lido buildings were damaged during superstorm Sandy and are in need of modernization.

But opponents say the price tag is too high, and that they don't want to lose Ye Olde Firehouse, which was built by fire department members during the Depression.

Liz Murdy, president of the Lido Beach Civic Association, said the replacement of the firehouses is a public safety issue and worth the money.

"They've done so much, and they really need the facilities to be updated so we can have the services we residents need," Murdy said.

But Point Lookout resident Richard Zampella said he balks at the price tag, which is $7.5 million between the bond and district reserves. He also said tearing down Ye Olde Firehouse -- which fire district officials say is outmoded and too expensive to upgrade -- would sacrifice too much history.

"There are certain individuals within the community who feel violated" by the plan to tear down the old firehouse, Zampella said.

The 23-year bond would add $165.48 per year to the property tax bill of a home with a market value of $600,000, district officials have said.

The district's buildings are all more than 45 years old, district Commissioner Andy Richter said. They are too small to accommodate modern fire equipment and have mechanical and electrical deficiencies, he said.

The district wants to replace Ye Olde Firehouse with a 1,900-square-foot command center, which would be part of the bond, Richter said. Modernizing the old firehouse would likely cost $4 million, which would limit the district's ability to upgrade the Main and Lido firehouses, he said.

Richter said he is hopeful the bond will pass. The district held two open houses last month in which residents greeted the proposal with a mix of support and skepticism.

"We just want them to come out and vote and make an informed decision," Richter said. "That's all we're hoping for."

The election is open to residents of the Lido and Point Lookout Fire District, which covers the hamlets of Lido Beach and Point Lookout. Voting will take place at Lido Firehouse and Main Firehouse, both located on Lido Boulevard, from 4 to 9 p.m. on Tuesday.

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