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Voters approve East Setauket firehouse expansion on third try

Voters in more than a dozen communities covered by the Setauket Fire District Tuesday night approved a $14.9 million plan to renovate and expand one of the district's three firehouses.

Residents voted 388-192 to nearly double the size of the district's aging firehouse on Main Street in East Setauket. It was the third referendum in a decade on proposals to alter the 79-year-old structure.

District manager David Sterne said construction would begin no sooner than next March. "We're very thankful to the community," Sterne said. "We learned a lot from this process . . . and we look forward to putting a building on Main Street in East Setauket that everybody can be proud of."

The plan will raise taxes on the average home by about 2.45 percent, or $93.83 per year, for the 25-year life of the bond funding the project.

Plans are for the firehouse to be expanded from 12,030 to 22,990 square feet. District officials have said the firehouse is not large enough for modern trucks and equipment.

Portions of the firehouse, including sections added in the 1950s and 1970s, are to be torn down as part of the expansion. The original firehouse, built in 1935, would remain intact, district officials have said.

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.

District voters had twice soundly rejected plans to renovate or replace the East Setauket firehouse. In 2005, voters defeated a $17.5 million proposal by a margin of 444-25. Three years later, a proposed $12.9 million expansion was rejected 975-153.

Many voters complained that fire district leaders had not sought community input on the previous proposals.

Herb Mones of Stony Brook, who had opposed the earlier proposals, said he voted Tuesday to support the latest plans. He said district officials held numerous community meetings to win over voters.

"I enthusiastically voted 'yes.' If I could have, I would have voted 'yes' twice," Mones said. "I was very impressed with the design and the thought that went into it. . . . This is not the Taj Mahals that we see in other communities."

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