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Setauket Fire District hopes third vote for expansion is the charm

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. Credit: Steve Pfost

Plans to expand an East Setauket firehouse were greeted with generally positive reviews at a community meeting to discuss the $14.9 million proposal.

About 40 people gathered on Tuesday night at the Main Street firehouse -- one of three in the sprawling 28-square-mile Setauket Fire District -- to view details of the expansion plan, which would raise taxes on the average home by 2.45 percent, or $93.83, per year, district officials said.

Two previous expansion proposals have been defeated in public referendums, in 2005 and 2008.

The new plans were met with approval from most of those who attended Tuesday's forum.

"I think it's wonderful," Michael Russell, of East Setauket, said after the meeting. "I think it's way overdue."

District officials have proposed increasing the firehouse to nearly 23,000 square feet, from the current 12,030 square feet. Setauket fire commissioners expect to approve a final plan on May 1 and set a June date for a public referendum.

Officials said a bigger firehouse is needed because the current facility, which dates to 1935, cannot accommodate larger fire trucks and bulkier equipment. Newer portions of the building that were added in the 1950s and 1970s would be torn down, but the original building would remain intact.

District manager Dave Sterne told residents that a citizens committee had taken part in designing the expansion.

"This has been a project that I think we've all learned a lot from," he said. "Asking people for their tax money is a responsibility we don't take lightly."

Architect Danny Tanzi, who designed the renovation, promised the expanded building would include no frills.

"There's no tiki bars, no gyms," Tanzi said at the meeting. "That excess is not in this project."

Only one person attending the meeting questioned the project's cost.

"We're losing big-time, and it must be money," said Louis Andrade, of East Setauket. "It's going to cost me $100 more. I don't understand it."

Others said Setauket fire officials deserved credit for sharing details of the expansion plan with the public. The district had been faulted for poor communication with residents before the 2005 and 2008 proposals were defeated.

"I think it's good that they're at least coming to the community in its infancy stage, rather than after the vote," said Ron LaVita, who lives near the firehouse. "As a community member, I think it's a great thing."

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