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Setauket Fire District hopes a third referendum will approve expansion plan

The Setauket firehouse, shown on Thursday, April 17,

The Setauket firehouse, shown on Thursday, April 17, 2014. The Setauket Fire District is proposing a substantial renovation of its 12,000-square-foot firehouse. Photo Credit: Steve Pfost

Setauket Fire District officials are making their third attempt in less than a decade to win voter approval of plans to expand an aging firehouse.

The district plans to hold a referendum in June on a proposal to nearly double the size of the firehouse on Main Street in East Setauket to 22,990 square feet, from 12,030 square feet. District officials say the $14.9 million expansion is needed to accommodate trucks and equipment that are too large for the firehouse, which was built in 1935 and expanded in the 1960s.

The new expansion, if approved by voters, would raise taxes on the average home by about 2.45 percent, or $93.83 per year, to pay back a 25-year bond to fund the project.

Previous renovation plans were resoundingly rejected by voters in 2005 and 2008. This time, fire officials have stepped up efforts to sell the plan to residents -- forming a citizens committee to help craft the proposal and holding public information meetings.

The next public meeting is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the firehouse, 190 Main St., East Setauket. Fire commissioners plan to vote on May 1 to finalize the proposal and set a date for the referendum.

"We're working with the community," district manager Dave Sterne said. "We want a facility that the community can be proud of."

The 28-square-mile district serves communities from Port Jefferson to Centereach, including part of the Stony Brook University campus. The Setauket Fire Department responds to about 3,600 calls annually, or almost 10 per day, fire officials said.

The earlier proposals -- $17.5 million in 2005, and $12.9 million in 2008 -- were criticized by some district residents as being too expensive. Many also felt fire district officials failed to adequately discuss project details before the votes.

The 2005 proposal was defeated, 444 to 25. The second proposal lost, 975 to 153, three years later.

Herb Mones, who opposed both previous projects, said he is more inclined to vote "yes" this time because fire officials made a "tremendous effort" to outline their plans.

"I think that the fire district has come a long way in developing what I would say is something that the community would eventually approve," said Mones, former president of the Civic Association of the Setaukets and Stony Brook. "I think that from the discussions that we've had . . . that they are going to find the community happier and more receptive to the ideas that they're going to present."

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